Background: Prospective data examining the relationship between dietary protein intake and incident coronary heart disease (CHD) are inconclusive. Most evidence is derived from homogenous populations such as health professionals. Large community-based analyses in more diverse samples are lacking.
Methods: We studied the association of protein type and major dietary protein sources and risk for incident CHD in 12,066 middle-aged adults (aged 45-64 at baseline, 1987-1989) from four U.S. communities enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study who were free of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease at baseline. Dietary protein intake was assessed at baseline and after 6 years of follow-up by food frequency questionnaire. Our primary outcome was adjudicated coronary heart disease events or deaths with following up through December 31, 2010. Cox proportional hazard models with multivariable adjustment were used for statistical analyses.
Results: During a median follow-up of 22 years, there were 1,147 CHD events. In multivariable analyses total, animal and vegetable protein were not associated with an increased risk for CHD before or after adjustment. In food group analyses of major dietary protein sources, protein intake from red and processed meat, dairy products, fish, nuts, eggs, and legumes were not significantly associated with CHD risk. The hazard ratios [with 95% confidence intervals] for risk of CHD across quintiles of protein from poultry were 1.00 [ref], 0.83 [0.70-0.99], 0.93 [0.75-1.15], 0.88 [0.73-1.06], 0.79 [0.64-0.98], P for trend = 0.16). Replacement analyses evaluating the association of substituting one source of dietary protein for another or of decreasing protein intake at the expense of carbohydrates or total fats did not show any statistically significant association with CHD risk.
Conclusion: Based on a large community cohort we found no overall relationship between protein type and major dietary protein sources and risk for CHD.