Gabriel-Eddie Njoroge

A new study from the University of Eastern Finland has found that, a diet that is rich in animal protein, particularly meat, is not good for the health, providing further backing for earlier research evidence.

Men whose diet was more balanced in terms of their sources of protein had a better chance and lesser risk than men who favored animal protein over plant-based protein in their diet. According to the findings that were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they had a greater risk of death in a 20-year follow-up than their counterparts.

Men whose sources of protein were animal-based had a 23 percent higher risk of death during the follow-up than men who had the most balanced ratio of animal and plant-based protein in their diet. A high intake of meat, particularly, seemed to associate with adverse effects: men eating a diet rich in meat i.e. more than 200g per day, had a 23 percent greater risk of death during the follow-up than men whose intake of meat was less than 100g per day.

Though the men participating in the study mainly ate red meat, most nutrition recommendations nowadays limit the intake of red and processed meats. For example, in Finland the recommended maximum intake is 500g per week.

The study found that high overall intake of dietary protein was associated with a greater risk of death in men who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at the onset of the study.

Highlighted in the findings, is the need to investigate the health effects of protein intake especially in people who have a pre-existing chronic medical condition. The mean age of the men participating in the study at the onset was 53 with diets lacking in protein not typical among the study population.

“However, these findings should not be generalized to older people who are at a greater risk of malnutrition and whose intake of protein often remains below the recommended amount,” Heli Virtanen, PhD Student from the University of Eastern Finland points out.

A high intake of animal protein, and especially the consumption of processed meats such as sausages and cold cuts, is associated with the risk of death, earlier studies indicate. However, the big picture relating to the health effects of protein and different protein sources remains unclear.

The study is based on the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study (KIHD) that analyzed the dietary habits of approximately 2600 Finnish mean aged between 42 and 60 at the onset of the study in 1984-1989. The researchers studied the mortality of this study population in an average follow-up of 20 years by analyzing registers provided by Statistics Finland.

The analyses focused on the associations of dietary protein and protein sources with mortality during the follow-up and other lifestyle factors and dietary habits were extensively controlled for, including the fact that those eating plenty of plant- based protein followed a healthier diet. Contact:,