According to researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, there is a type of food that significantly increases life expectancy when compared to meat.
The results were reported in a major new study which followed more than 130,000 people for 36 years, monitoring their diet, lifestyle, illness and mortality.
According to the researchers, replacing meat with plant based sources of protein is much healthier, reducing the risk of death by 34 percent.
The Vegan Society’s spokesperson, Jimmy Pierson, said: “Plant proteins like beans, lentils, nuts, grains and seeds are packed full of wide ranging benefits. They don’t just keep us healthier for longer, they are far more sustainable than meat and fish and, of course, they don’t harm animals.”
In the study, the researchers found that switching between 15g and 19g of animal protein for the likes of nuts, pulses or legumes significantly cuts the risk of early death. This is the equivalent of a single sausage.
Replacing eggs with protein also leads to a 19 percent reduction in the risk of death.
“Overall, our findings support the importance of the sources of dietary protein for long-term health outcomes,” said co-author Mingyang Song in a statement.
“While previous studies have primarily focused on the overall amount of protein intake – which is important – from a broad dietary perspective, the particular foods that people consume to get protein are equally important.
“Our findings also have public health implications and can help refine current dietary recommendations about protein intake, in light of the fact that it is not only the amount of protein but the specific food sources that is critical for long-term health.”
There was however a caveat to the findings. The increased risk among meat eaters disappeared among those who had a healthy lifestyle – they had to also drink alcohol or smoke, be sedentary, obese or underweight.
This, the authors discovered when they looked closer, was due to the fact that those with “unhealthy” lifestyles tended to consume more processed forms of animal protein and red meat, whereas the healthier ones got theirs from fish or poultry.
“We suspect the different sources of animal protein between the two groups may contribute to the stronger results in the unhealthy lifestyle group,” Song said.
“Our findings suggest that people should consider eating more plant proteins than animal proteins, and when they do choose among sources of animal protein, fish and chicken are probably better choices.”