Background Dietary recommendations regarding protein intake have been focused on the amount of protein. However, such recommendations without considering specific protein sources may be simplistic and insufficient. Methods and Results We included 102 521 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative between 1993 and 1998, and followed them through February 2017. During 1 876 205 person-years of follow-up, 25 976 deaths occurred. Comparing the highest with the lowest quintile, plant protein intake was inversely associated with all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR], 0.91 [0.86, 0.96]), cardiovascular disease mortality (HR, 0.88 [0.79, 0.97]), and dementia mortality (HR, 0.79 [0.67, 0.94]). Among major protein sources, comparing the highest with the lowest quintile of consumption, processed red meat (HR, 1.06 [1.01, 1.10]) or eggs (HR, 1.14 [1.10, 1.19]) was associated with higher risk of all-cause mortality. Unprocessed red meat (HR, 1.12 [1.02, 1.23]), eggs (HR, 1.24 [1.14, 1.34]), or dairy products (HR, 1.11 [1.02, 1.22]) was associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. Egg consumption was associated with higher risk of cancer mortality (HR, 1.10 [1.02, 1.19]). Processed red meat consumption was associated with higher risk of dementia mortality (HR, 1.20 [1.05, 1.32]), while consumption of poultry (HR, 0.85 [0.75, 0.97]) or eggs (HR, 0.86 [0.75, 0.98]) was associated with lower risk of dementia mortality. In substitution analysis, substituting of animal protein with plant protein was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and dementia mortality, and substitution of total red meat, eggs, or dairy products with nuts was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality. Conclusions Different dietary protein sources have varying associations with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and dementia mortality. Our findings support the need for consideration of protein sources in future dietary guidelines.
Keywords: all‐cause mortality; cause‐specific mortality; dietary protein intake; dietary protein sources; postmenopausal women.