Eat steak, protect your heart?

Consumption of high protein foods is linked with lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness in a study.

Savoring a steak may be good for your heart. New research finds that high protein foods, both from animal and plant sources, boost cardiovascular health. And not just a little. Eating foods rich in amino acids could be as good for your heart as quitting smoking or hitting the gym.

Research from the University of East Anglia suggests that people who eat high levels of certain amino acids found in meat and plant-based protein have lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness. Results were published in the Journal of Nutrition and noted on

For the study, scientists investigated the effect of seven amino acids on cardiovascular health among almost 2,000 women with a healthy BMI. The data came from TwinsUK, the biggest UK adult twin registry of 12,000 twins, used to study the genetic and environmental causes of age-related disease.

"Results from previous studies have provided evidence that increased dietary protein may be associated with lower blood pressure. We wanted to know whether protein from animal sources or plant-based sources was more beneficial -- so we drilled down and looked at the different amino acids found in both meat and vegetables,” lead researcher Dr. Amy Jennings said in a university release.

The researchers found strong evidence that subjects who consumed the highest amounts of amino acids had lower measures of blood pressure and arterial stiffness. The source of those acids made a difference. Higher intake of aminos from plant-based sources was associated with lower blood pressure while higher intake from animal sources was associated with lower levels of arterial stiffness.

"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,” said Jennings. “For arterial stiffness, the association was similar to the magnitude of change previously associated with not smoking.”

Another study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism, also supported upping protein intake. The study suggested doubling protein intake could help older people maintain their body’s ability to maintain muscle.

As for that steak, don’t order the biggest one on the menu. The beneficial daily amount of protein suggested by the new study equals just two and a half ounces.

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