Here is how pizza is surprisingly healthy, according to new research from Tufts University
Pizza and other forms of plant protein may promote healthy aging, research shows
The study, publishing in January in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined how protein intake influences aging. Researchers from Tufts University used surveys collected every four years from Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study. The data was collected over the span of 32 years and included more than 48,000 female participants.
Researchers considered participants “healthy agers” if they remained free from 11 chronic diseases and maintained cognitive function, physical function and mental health.
Is plant protein or animal protein better for aging?
Women with higher consumption of plant proteins — defined in the study as protein from bread, pizza, fruits, vegetables, mashed potatoes, beans, cereal and baked items — were 46% more likely to remain healthy while aging, researchers noted. These women were less likely to get frail or develop ailments such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and declining cognitive function later in life.
The same results were not true for participants with diets heavy in animal protein such as meat, cheese, milk and seafood.
“Consuming protein in midlife was linked to promoting good health in older adulthood. ... We also found that the source of protein matters,” said lead author of the study, nutritional epidemiologist Andres Ardisson Korat, a scientist with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, per Tufts University.
Korat continues: “Getting the majority of your protein from plant sources at midlife, plus a small amount of animal protein seems to be conducive to good health and good survival to older ages.”
Researchers noted that animal protein has a moderate link to fewer limitations in aging but plant protein consumption has a more consistent association across the board and stronger benefits for mental and cognitive health in old age.
“Those who consumed greater amounts of animal protein tended to have more chronic disease and didn’t manage to obtain the improved physical function that we normally associate with eating protein,” said Korat, per Tufts University.
Plant protein is heart-healthy
Higher plant protein consumption was also tied to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and a healthier heart. On the other hand, higher animal protein consumption was linked to higher LDL cholesterol levels and higher blood pressure.
“The advantage of consuming more plant protein compared with other nutrients in the diet is that plant protein is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions,” Ardisson Korat explained, per Forbes. “It promotes good physical function by enhancing muscle synthesis. And it comes from food sources that typically contain high-quality carbohydrates, such as dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.”