Heli Virtanen, PhD StudentUniversity of Eastern Finland

Diet Rich in Red Meat Linked to Earlier Death

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Heli Virtanen, PhD StudentUniversity of Eastern Finland

Heli Virtanen

Heli Virtanen, PhD Student
University of Eastern Finland 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Optimal amount of protein in diet for supporting longevity is unclear. In addition, there have been indications that different protein sources have differential associations with mortality risk.  Thus, we investigated the associations of proteins and protein sources with mortality risk in the Finnish men of the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: We observed that those men who had the highest meat intake were more likely to die during the study period compared to those who had the lowest meat intake. The meat was mainly red and processed meat. The diet very high in animal protein and low in plant protein was also associated with increased death risk. We also observed that among those with serious diseases (cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease), higher total protein intake was associated with increased death risk during the study period, but this was not observed in men free of these diseases. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: It seems that it is especially detrimental to consume a diet that is very high in animal protein, especially meat, and at the same time low in plant protein sources. Those who consume very high amounts of red and processed meat could improve their health by seeking alternative choices from fish and plant protein sources. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: It would be important to get more research results about the optimal amount of protein in a diet especially among those who already have serious diseases. In addition, there are many potential mechanisms behind the harmful effects of high meat intake and further research hopefully clarifies these mechanisms. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: As the mean age of our study population was 53 years in the beginning of the study, our results should not be generalized to elderly. Among elderly, the protein intake is often lower than recommended and increasing protein intake is needed to avoid sarcopenia.

The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study was for the most part funded by research grants to Jukka T Salonen. The present contribution received funding from the Finnish Cultural Foundation North Savo Regional fund and Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation to Heli E.K. Virtanen). Dr. Salonen is the CEO of MAS-Metabolic Analytical Services Oy.


Heli E K Virtanen, Sari Voutilainen, Timo T Koskinen, Jaakko Mursu, Petra Kokko, Maija P T Ylilauri, Tomi-Pekka Tuomainen, Jukka T Salonen, Jyrki K Virtanen. Dietary proteins and protein sources and risk of death: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2019; DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz025 

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Last Updated on April 16, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD