Previous studies investigating protein intake in relation to mortality have provided conflicting results.
We investigated the associations of dietary protein and protein sources with risk of disease death in the prospective, population-based Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.
The study population consisted of 2641 Finnish men, aged 42–60 y at baseline in 1984–1989. We estimated protein intakes with 4-d dietary records at baseline and collected data on disease deaths from the national Causes of Death Register. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate HRs and 95% CIs.
During the average follow-up of 22.3 y, we observed 1225 deaths due to disease. Higher intakes of total protein and animal protein had borderline statistically significant associations with increased mortality risk: multivariable-adjusted HR (95% CI) in the highest compared with the lowest quartile for total protein intake = 1.17 (0.99, 1.39; P-trend across quartiles = 0.07) and for animal protein intake = 1.13 (0.95, 1.35; P-trend = 0.04). Higher animal-to-plant protein ratio (extreme-quartile HR = 1.23; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.49; P-trend = 0.01) and higher meat intake (extreme-quartile HR = 1.23; 95% CI: 1.04, 1.47; P-trend = 0.01) were associated with increased mortality. When evaluated based on disease history at baseline, the association of total protein with mortality appeared more evident among those with a history of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer (n = 1094) compared with those without disease history (n = 1547) (P-interaction = 0.05 or 0.07, depending on the model). Intakes of fish, eggs, dairy, or plant protein sources were not associated with mortality.
Higher ratio of animal to plant protein in diet and higher meat intake were associated with increased mortality risk. Higher total protein intake appeared to be associated with mortality mainly among those with a predisposing disease. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT03221127.