Eating plant protein in midlife may help women stay healthy as they age 

An assortment of plant protein foods such as nuts and legumes.

January 25, 2024 — Women who eat more plant protein in midlife may increase their odds of aging healthily, according to a new study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Tufts University. 

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on January 17, 2024.

The researchers analyzed health and dietary data from more than 48,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study between 1984 and 2016. Healthy aging was defined as fewer or no chronic diseases, better physical mobility, and little cognitive decline. 

While eating protein in any form at midlife had some healthy aging benefits, plant protein from foods such as beans and nuts was associated with healthy aging across multiple domains including physical function and cognitive health. High consumption of animal protein was associated with better mobility, but also with increased risk of developing chronic diseases.

Compared to women who ate low amounts of protein, those who ate more plant protein were 46% more likely to age healthily; those who ate more protein from meat and dairy products were 6% less likely to stay healthy as they got older, according to the study.

Harvard Chan School authors included Molin Wang, Heather Eliassen, Walter Willett, and Qi Sun.

Read coverage in NBC News: Protein may help protect women against many types of chronic disease

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