Meat matters to the heart

by Erica Shaffer
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A new study reveals the benefits of meat- and plant-based amino acids to heart health.
A new study reveals the benefits of meat- and plant-based amino acids to heart health.

NORWICH, England – Researchers at the Univ. of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England, found certain amino acids found in meat and plant-based proteins can lower blood pressure and reduce arterial stiffness in the heart. The study, “Amino Acid Intake Is Inversely Associated with Arterial Stiffness and Central Blood Pressure in Women,” is published in the September edition of the Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers said they found strong evidence that a higher intake of amino acids from animal-based proteins were associated with lower levels of arterial stiffness, while a higher intake of plant-based proteins were associated with lower blood pressures.

“The finding that eating certain meat and plant proteins are linked to healthier blood pressure is an exciting finding,” said Prof. Tim Spector from the department of Twin Research at King’s college London. “We need to understand the mechanism to see if it is direct or via our gut microbes.”

The study examined the effect of seven amino acids on cardiovascular health among approximately 2,000 women using data from TwinsUK, the largest adult twin registry containing 12,000 twins. The registry is used to study the genetic and environmental causes of age-related disease.
 
“We studied seven amino acids - arginine, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine, and tyrosine,” said lead researcher Dr. Amy Jennings, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. “Glutamic acid, leucine, and tyrosine are found in animal sources, and a higher intake was associated with lower levels of arterial stiffness.

“All seven amino acids, and particularly those from plant-based sources, were associated with lower blood pressure.

“The really surprising thing that we found is that amino acid intake has as much of an effect on blood pressure as established lifestyle risk factors such as salt intake, physical activity and alcohol consumption,” Jennings said. “For arterial stiffness, the association was similar to the magnitude of change previously associated with not smoking.”

Jennings added that including more meat, fish, dairy, produce and legumes could help prevent and treat cardiovascular disease. Examples of beneficial daily amounts include a 75-g portion of steak, a 100-g salmon filet or a 500-ml glass of skim milk.

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