Eat more plant proteins to live longer, say Harvard scientists

The research also found a 10% higher intake of meat was associated with a 2% higher mortality rate

Replacing meat with plant based sources of protein significantly increases life expectancy, a major new study has found.

The report, which examined the health effects of different sources of protein, found that exchanging just a small amount of processed red meat for plant protein reduces the risk of early death by 34%.

The Vegan Society’s spokesperson, Jimmy Pierson, said: 'Here is yet another major piece of quality independent research condemning animal proteins in the strongest possible terms. If you want the best chance of living a long, healthy life then meat has to be off the menu altogether.'

'Plant proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts, grains and seeds, by contrast, are packed full of wide ranging benefits. They don’t just keep us healthier for longer, they are far more sustainable than meat and fish and, of course, they don’t harm animals. This the basis of our Grow Green campaign, which encourages plant protein agriculture in the UK,' added Pierson.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital followed more than 130,000 people for 36 years, monitoring their diet, lifestyle, illness and mortality.

They found that switching between 15g and 19g of animal protein – the equivalent of a single sausage – for nuts, pulses or legumes significantly cuts the risk of early death. Substituting eggs for plant protein also leads to a 19% reduction in death risk.

The research also found a 10% higher intake of meat was associated with a 2% higher mortality rate and an 8% higher chance of cardiovascular death.

With at least 542,000 people in Britain now following a vegan diet – up from 150,000 in 2006 – and another 521,000 vegetarians wanting to reduce their consumption of animal products, veganism has become one of the fastest growing lifestyle choices.