Plant vs. animal - the protein comparison

High protein, low carb, vegan or clean eating - these nutritional forms are currently very much in vogue. Healthy and balanced it should be, if possible, with many proteins. Eating protein-rich food has long since ceased to be the basis of daily food intake only for athletes, but has generally gained more and more attention. Many often resort to animal proteins such as quark, meat or eggs.

In a study published in 2016, researchers have now investigated whether people live healthier and longer if they consume more vegetable protein than animal protein. But before we tell you about this, let's take a step back: Why are proteins so important and what makes the difference between animal and plant proteins?

#1 Why exactly proteins are so vital

Proteins - or also called proteins - are found in almost every cell structure of our body and thus represent an essential basic building block and material. In addition, they fulfil different tasks, serve as means of transport, support the formation of cells and vessels or prevent the formation of blood clots. The body itself carries about 14 kilograms of connective or supporting tissue, which consists of sugar protein complexes. Proteins are made up of various so-called amino acids, which can only partially be produced by the body itself. To avoid a deficiency, eight of these essential amino acids must be taken in with food.

#2 The Study

In the study published in 2016, researchers have now accompanied more than 130,000 people with an average age of 49 years over 32 years and observed their living and eating habits at intervals of two years. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of animal and plant protein intake on mortality risk. In order to make this comparison between plant and animal protein, the causes of death of the more than 36,000 deaths during these 32 years were investigated and related. Of these deaths, 8851 died from cardiovascular diseases, 13,159 from cancer and 14,105 from other causes. The two groups of test persons showed clear differences in the causes of death. If the test persons had ingested an additional 10 percent of the recommended daily calorie intake via animal proteins, the risk of death increased by 2 percent and the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 8 percent. A diet with three percent more vegetable proteins led to a decreasing mortality rate of the test persons, the risk of cardiovascular disease even decreased by 12 percent.

Participants who were already exposed to health risks due to overweight or smoking habits benefited particularly from the advantages of this diet. However, these health factors have been isolated in the evaluation in order not to distort the results.

As a result, the researchers found that the amount of protein can have a specific effect on health and death risk. However, the type of protein source is influenced by other components and can therefore have a decisive influence on the overall health picture.

#3 The disadvantages of animal protein

The problem with most animal protein sources is the hormone and antibiotic load. These can have a highly allergenic effect and cannot be completely broken down and metabolized by the body, as is the case with infants, for example. Milk and chicken proteins in particular are ultimately stored in the liver, which can trigger various allergies or intestinal diseases.

Plant proteins are particularly important for the digestive performance of the internal organs at an advanced age, as animal proteins are more difficult to digest. The protein deficiency often manifests itself in older people in that they eat less and therefore suffer from malnutrition with all its consequences.

The study shows that plant foods are an excellent source of protein and can also reduce the ecological problems of meat production. In addition, the researchers say that not only the vegetable protein intake can have a special benefit on our well-being and health. In general, regular consumption of many different plant foods can have a positive influence on our body. For this purpose, whole grains, pulses, nuts and beans are listed in the study as the most important vegetable energy suppliers.