Background: Current evidence suggests that plant and animal proteins are intimately associated with specific large nutrient clusters that may explain part of their complex relation with cardiovascular health. We aimed at evaluating the association between specific patterns of protein intake with cardiovascular mortality.
Methods: We selected 81 337 men and women from the Adventist Health Study-2. Diet was assessed between 2002 and 2007, by using a validated food frequency questionnaire. Dietary patterns based on the participants' protein consumption were derived by factor analysis. Cox regression analysis was used to estimate multivariate-adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) adjusted for sociodemographic and lifestyle factors and dietary components.
Results: There were 2276 cardiovascular deaths during a mean follow-up time of 9.4 years. The HRs for cardiovascular mortality were 1.61 [98.75% confidence interval (CI), 1.12 2.32; P-trend < 0.001] for the 'Meat' protein factor and 0.60 (98.75% CI, 0.42 0.86; P-trend < 0.001) for the 'Nuts & Seeds' protein factor (highest vs lowest quintile of factor scores). No significant associations were found for the 'Grains', 'Processed Foods' and 'Legumes, Fruits & Vegetables' protein factors. Additional adjustments for the participants' vegetarian dietary pattern and nutrients related to cardiovascular disease outcomes did not change the results.
Conclusions: Associations between the 'Meat' and 'Nuts & Seeds' protein factors and cardiovascular outcomes were strong and could not be ascribed to other associated nutrients considered to be important for cardiovascular health. Healthy diets can be advocated based on protein sources, preferring low contributions of protein from meat and higher intakes of plant protein from nuts and seeds.