Dietary proteins and atherosclerosis.
ABSTRACT More than one hundred years ago the "protein hypothesis" of the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and its association with cardiovascular disease was put forward on the basis of animal experiments; however, it has so far never been verified in humans. This theory was soon replaced by the "lipid hypothesis", which was confirmed in humans as of 1994. Epidemiological ecological studies in the 1960 s showed significant associations between dietary animal protein and mortality from cardiovascular disease. However, animal protein intake was also significantly correlated with saturated fatty acid and cholesterol intake. In the last decades two prospective cohort studies demonstrated a decreased cardiovascular risk in women during high- versus low-protein intake when adjusting for other dietary factors (e. g., saturated fats) and other cardiovascular risk factors. A direct cholesterol lowering effect of proteins has not been shown. Despite earlier research indicating that soy protein has cardioprotective effects as compared to other proteins, these observations have not been confirmed by randomized placebo-controlled trials. However, most experts recommend the consumption of foods rich in plant proteins as alternatives to meat and dairy products rich in saturated fat and containing cholesterol. There are no scientific arguments to increase the daily protein intake to more than 20 % of total energy intake as recommended by the guidelines, in order to improve cardiovascular health.