A study from Tufts University’s Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) found that women who ate more plant-based protein were overall healthier and developed fewer chronic diseases later in life.

Study’s primary focus

The study employed data from more than 48,000 women. The information came from the Nurses’ Health Study at Harvard, which followed female medical workers between 1984 and 2016. The women in the study were in good physical and mental health when it began, and they ranged in age from 38 to 59.

Dietary surveys that are gathered every four years were evaluated by the researchers. To evaluate the effect of dietary protein on healthy aging, they examined the frequency of consumption of different foods. The total amount of protein consumed from all dietary sources was determined using the Harvard University dietary Composition Database.

Important conclusions

The researchers discovered a strong link between increased consumption of plant-based protein and a lower risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease as well as a deterioration in mental and cognitive function.

A higher plant-protein intake was associated with a 46% higher likelihood of enduring excellent health into later life for women.

Conversely, a 6% reduction in the probability of aging healthily was linked to increased consumption of animal protein.

Plant protein shown a higher and more consistent correlation across all models, particularly with mental health, but animal protein was only marginally associated with less physical limits in older age.

It concerns where the protein comes from

“Consuming protein in midlife was linked to promoting good health in older adulthood,” said study lead author Andres Ardisson Korat.

“We also found that the source of protein matters. Getting the majority of your protein from plant sources at midlife, plus a small amount of animal protein seems to be conducive to good health and good survival to older ages.”

persistent illness

Higher intake of plant protein was linked to decreased levels of blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and LDL cholesterol, specifically for heart disease.

In contrast, higher levels of these markers and insulin-like growth factor—which is connected to a number of cancers—were linked to higher intake of animal protein.

“People who consumed higher levels of animal protein were more likely to have chronic illnesses and were unable to achieve the enhanced physical function that is typically associated with protein consumption,” according to Ardisson Korat.

It’s interesting to note that there was no discernible link between improved health status in older adulthood and dairy protein (found in foods like milk, cheese, pizza, yogurt, and ice cream).

broader ramifications

According to the study, there may be more advantages to plant protein than just the protein itself. Higher amounts of dietary fiber, micronutrients, and polyphenols—healthy substances absent from animal diets—are generally present in plant-based diets.

Ardisson Korat does, however, also stress the importance of additional study, especially in more diverse populations. White female healthcare workers were the main demographic polled for the Nurses’ Health Study.

“The data from the study tended to be very homogeneous in terms of demographic and socioeconomic composition, so it will be valuable to follow up with a study in cohorts that are more diverse. It’s a field that is still evolving,” said Ardisson Korat.


The results confirm the advice that women should acquire the majority of their protein from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. For iron and vitamin B12 content, it is recommended to include some fish and animal protein.

“Nutritional protein consumption, particularly plant-based protein, is crucial for fostering a healthy aging process and preserving good health as one ages,” said Ardisson Korat.

Topics #Plant protein