Meat-heavy diet could lead to heart failure in older women

A diet full of steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs could be putting older women at higher risk for heart failure.

New research presented at the 2016 American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions showed that women over 50 who get most of their protein from meat could be more susceptible to developing heart conditions.

In a study conducted at Brown University, researchers looked at self-reported diets of more than 100,000 women aged between 50 and 79 who were participants in the Women’s Health Initiative. Data revealed that 1,711 women developed heart failure over the course of the study, which ran from 1993 to 1998. Results also showed that women who ate meat as their main source of protein were much more likely to develop heart failure compared to women who ate less meat and received their protein from vegetables.

Although women who ate higher amounts of vegetable protein appeared to have less instances of heart failure, the association was not significant when body mass was considered, the study said.

“Higher calibrated total dietary protein intake appears to be associated with substantially increased heart failure risk while vegetable protein intake appears to be protective, although additional studies are needed to further explore this potential association,” said Mohamad Firas Barbour, MD, the lead author on the study and an internist at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in a statement from the AHA.

To get an accurate reading of the women’s protein intake, the researchers used biomarker data to calibrate their daily protein intake, using doubly labeled water and urinary nitrogen.

Though Barbour’s study shed some light on the link between heavy meat diets and heart failure, his is not the first study to look at the concept.

“While a better understanding of dietary risk is still needed, it appears that heart failure among postmenopausal women is not only highly prevalent but preventable by modifying diet,” Barbour said. “Heart failure is highly prevalent, especially in post-menopausal women. Therefore, a better understanding of nutrition-related factors associated with heart failure is needed.”