High protein diet ‘increases heart failure risk’

For middle-aged men, eating higher amounts of protein is associated with a slightly elevated risk of heart failure, according to new research published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

Despite the popularity of high protein diets, there is little research about how they impact men’s heart failure risk.

Jyrki Virtanen, the study’s lead author, said: ‘As many people seem to take the health benefits of high-protein diets for granted, it is important to make clear the possible risks and benefits of these diets. Earlier studies had linked diets high in protein – especially from animal sources – with increased risks of Type 2 diabetes and even death.’

The study involved 2,441 men, between the ages of 42 and 60, who were followed for an average 22 years. Overall, researchers found 334 cases of heart failure were diagnosed during the study and 70 per cent of the protein consumed was from animal sources and 27.7 per cent from plant sources.

Higher intake of protein from most dietary sources, was associated with slightly higher risk. Only proteins from fish and eggs were not associated with heart failure risk.

Comparing men who ate the most protein to those who ate the least, it was found their risk of heart failure was 33 per cent higher for all sources of protein.

Heli E.K. Virtanen, the study’s first author, said: ‘As this is one of the first studies reporting on the association between dietary protein and heart failure risk, more research is needed before we know whether moderating protein intake may be beneficial in the prevention of heart failure.’

‘Long-term interventions comparing diets with differential protein compositions and emphasizing differential protein sources would be important to reveal possible effects of protein intake on risk factors of heart failure. More research is also needed in other study populations.’


  • David Lyness

    Nutritional epidemiology deserves a large amount of skepticism. You are reporting the results of a yet another food recall study. And yet another “relative risk” story (not a large jump in “absolute risk”). This is not a very complete article.

  • MRB

    They don’t clarify what is “high protein intake”. Were the highest levels eating 4-5 10oz steaks a day? What were the “lowest” consuming?” As as David suggests below, epidemiological studies are notoriously poor at highlighting individual dietary factors in relation to health. Case in point, eating beef and pork was linked to higher rates of heart attacks in Northern Europe compared to the poor diets of Central Africa. But when accounting for stress levels from work and society, alcohol, smoking and traffic pollution, the bias disappeared and became lower in Europe.