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New research shows that diets rich in plant protein may help keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels at bay.

LONDON – Maintaining a balanced diet is important for enjoying a healthy life, but are some foods powerful enough to add years to your lifespan? According to a new study, the answer to that question is yes. Researchers say that high protein diets, especially those rich in plant protein, can lower the risk of death.

Previous studies show diets high in plant proteins, such as legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), whole grains, and nuts, lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. However, it is less clear if and how high protein diets are linked to death and longevity.

Researchers in Iran and the United States collaborated on a project looking at the link between protein intake and risk of death. They studied deaths in general and deaths due to two specific causes, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. The researchers found 32 specific studies examining these topics and then used mathematical models to find a correlation.

The international team says high protein consumption does indeed lower your risk of death. Plant protein in particular contributes to an eight-percent reduction in the risk of death due to any cause. They also cut the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease by 12 percent.

The study does not specifically look at how or why plant proteins reduce the likelihood of death. Researchers suggest that it may be due to plants’ beneficial effect on blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

“These findings have important public health implications as intake of plant protein can be increased relatively easily by replacing animal protein and could have a large effect on longevity,” the study authors say in a media release.

The study is published in The BMJ.

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