Researchers in Finland find that a diet including plant proteins provides health benefits over consumption of red meat.

Replacing animal protein, found in meat, with plant protein in diet could help people reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Grain products, such as quinoa and oatmeal, were the main source of plant protein, with other sources being potatoes and other vegetables for the study by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland.

Researchers wanted to find out more about the significance of proteins from different sources and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Using a computer model, the research team estimated that replacing approximately 5 grams of animal protein with plant protein as part of your daily diet could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 18%.

The findings of the study were recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers also linked the consumption of plant protein with lower blood sugar levels at the beginning of the study, which could explain part of the reason why a diet including plant protein presented a reduced diabetes risk, compared to people with a diet rich in meat.

The initial Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland took place from 1984–1989, when researchers studied the diets of 2,332 men aged between 42 and 60 and who did not have type 2 diabetes. During a follow-up of 19 years, 432 men were diagnosed with the condition.

Researchers found that men with a high intake of plant protein in their diet also had healthy lifestyle habits, however, lifestyle habits alone did not explain their lower risk of diabetes. The risk of men with the highest intake of plant protein to develop type 2 diabetes was 35% less than the risk of those with the lowest intake of plant protein.

The researchers also discovered that people whose diet included a high intake of meat (including processed and unprocessed red meat) had a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In addition, the intake of overall protein, animal protein, fish protein or dairy protein were not associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Egg protein was also found to be similar to the research group’s earlier findings relating to the consumption of eggs: a higher intake was linked with a lower risk.

Researchers said their findings showed that a diet that included plant protein could help prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes.

Read the report in the British Journal of Nutrition
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