According to a new study, eating a diet that includes more plant-based protein is associated with a lower risk of death, while eating more animal protein is associated with a higher risk of death, especially among adults with at least one unhealthy behavior such as smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight or living a sedentary lifestyle.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital examined how each protein source influenced long-term health. They looked at more than 131,000 adults participating in two long-running national health studies. Participants provided 25 to 30 years of detailed data on diet, lifestyle, and medical conditions. Researchers reviewed detailed food questionnaires that were sent to the participants every four years.

They found that higher intake of animal protein was positively associated with mortality and that the association was higher among adults who lived an unhealthy lifestyle. Substituting plant protein for animal protein, especially processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source.

Click here to review the study published in JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association – Internal Medicine.