Dietary intake of plant- and animal-derived protein and incident cardiovascular diseases: the pan-European EPIC-CVD case–cohort study

Ju Sheng Zheng*, Marinka Steur, Fumiaki Imamura, Heinz Freisling, Laura Johnson, Yvonne T. van der Schouw, Tammy YN Tong, Elisabete Weiderpass, Rashmita Bajracharya, Marta Crous-Bou, Christina C. Dahm, Alicia K. Heath, Daniel B. Ibsen, Franziska Jannasch, Verena Katzke, Giovanna Masala, Conchi Moreno-Iribas, Carlotta Sacerdote, Matthias B. Schulze, Sabina SieriNicholas J. Wareham, John Danesh, Adam S. Butterworth, Nita G. Forouhi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review



Epidemiological evidence suggests that a potential association between dietary protein intake and cardiovascular disease (CVD) may depend on the protein source, that is, plant- or animal-derived, but past research was limited and inconclusive. 


To evaluate the association of dietary plant- or animal-derived protein consumption with risk of CVD, and its components ischemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke. 


This analysis in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-CVD case–cohort study included 16,244 incident CVD cases (10,784 IHD and 6423 stroke cases) and 15,141 subcohort members from 7 European countries. We investigated the association of estimated dietary protein intake with CVD, IHD, and stroke (total, fatal, and nonfatal) using multivariable-adjusted Prentice-weighted Cox regression. We estimated isocaloric substitutions of replacing fats and carbohydrates with plant- or animal-derived protein and replacing food-specific animal protein with plant protein. Multiplicative interactions between dietary protein and prespecified variables were tested. 


Neither plant- nor animal-derived protein intake was associated with incident CVD, IHD, or stroke in adjusted analyses without or with macronutrient-specified substitution analyses. Higher plant-derived protein intake was associated with 22% lower total stroke incidence among never smokers [HR 0.78, 95% confidence intervals (CI): 0.62, 0.99], but not among current smokers (HR 1.08, 95% CI: 0.83, 1.40, P-interaction = 0.004). Moreover, higher plant-derived protein (per 3% total energy) when replacing red meat protein (HR 0.52, 95% CI: 0.31, 0.88), processed meat protein (HR 0.39, 95% CI: 0.17, 0.90), and dairy protein (HR 0.54, 95% CI: 0.30, 0.98) was associated with lower incidence of fatal stroke.


Plant- or animal-derived protein intake was not associated with overall CVD. However, the association of plant-derived protein consumption with lower total stroke incidence among nonsmokers, and with lower incidence of fatal stroke highlights the importance of investigating CVD subtypes and potential interactions. These observations warrant further investigation in diverse populations with varying macronutrient intakes and dietary patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1164-1174
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

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