Higher-protein diets have been advocated for body-weight regulation for the past few decades. However, the potential health risks of these diets are still uncertain. We aimed to develop a protein score based on the quantity and source of protein, and to examine the association of the score with glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Analyses were based on three population studies included in the PREVIEW project (PREVention of diabetes through lifestyle Intervention and population studies in Europe and around the World): NQplus, Lifelines, and the Young Finns Study. Cross-sectional data from food-frequency questionnaires (n = 76,777 subjects) were used to develop a protein score consisting of two components: 1) percentage of energy from total protein, and 2) plant to animal protein ratio. An inverse association between protein score and HbA1c (slope -0.02 ± 0.01 mmol/mol, p < 0.001) was seen in Lifelines. We found a positive association between the protein score and eGFR in Lifelines (slope 0.17 ± 0.02 mL/min/1.73 m², p < 0.0001). Protein scoring might be a useful tool to assess both the effect of quantity and source of protein on health parameters. Further studies are needed to validate this newly developed protein score.
Keywords: HbA1c; eGFR; healthy subjects; population studies; protein diet score.