New research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) claims that consuming foods with high amounts of certain amino acids could benefit the heart equivalent to quitting smoking and alcohol, lowering salt-intake or increasing physical activity. Individuals who eat foods containing meat and plant-based proteins have better blood pressure and reduced arterial stiffness.

Animal Or Plant Protein?

Lead researcher Dr Amy Jennings from UEA’s Norwich Medical School explained that increased protein intake from meat, dairy, fish, lentils, beans, spinach and broccoli could significantly and readily reduce the risk of cardiovascular ailments. However, the idea was to identify which protein source was more beneficial – animal or protein.

Researchers looked into the effects of seven amino acids – arginine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine, and tyrosine – on the cardiovascular health of almost 2,000 women with healthy body mass index. Data was obtained from TwinsUK, the largest registry of 12,000 UK adult twins involved in studying environmental and genetic causes associated with age-related diseases.

The diets of these twins was studied and compared with clinical measures of arterial thickness and stiffness, and blood pressure. Strong evidence linking higher consumption of amino acids and lowered blood pressure and blood vessel thickness was observed. Amino acids from plant-based sources were associated with a decrease in blood pressure and those from animal sources improved arterial stiffness.

The Benefits Are Huge!

The most significant finding was that increasing amino acid intake improved blood pressure equivalent to increasing physical activity and decreasing salt and alcohol consumption. For arterial stiffness, the effects were similar to those seen after quitting smoking.

“Hypertension (high blood pressure) is among the most significant risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. A decrease in blood pressure leads to a decrease in mortality due to stroke or coronary heart disease. Thus, modifying your diet to incorporate more meat, fish, dairy products and pulses could help prevent and treat the condition”, stated the researchers.

Beneficial amounts for daily consumption include a 75 g portion of steak, a 100 g salmon fillet or a 500 ml of skimmed milk.

Professor Tim Spector from the Department of Twin Research at King’s College London pointed out that the findings were very exciting, and more research into the exact mechanisms and involvement of gut microbiota is needed.