Heart failure patients who have a higher protein intake live longer, according to new research presented at Heart Failure 2018 and the World Congress on Acute Heart Failure, a European Society of Cardiology (ESC) congress.
Elderly adults struggle to maintain optimal muscle mass, which is due to the lack of efficiency in using dietary protein to build muscle. Typically, older adults eat less protein despite studies advising the opposite. This potentially becomes a bigger issue when heart failure becomes a health problem.
Little is known about the impact of low versus high protein intake in patients with heart failure, a condition where the heart does not pump blood around the body efficiently. Around one in ten 70-year-olds have heart failure.
Understanding the impact protein intake
For the study, researchers investigated the association between protein intake and survival in over 2,000 patients with heart failure in the BIOSTAT-CHF study, which was conducted in 11 countries in Europe.
The average age for patients was 68 years and 27% were female. Daily protein intake was estimated from urine urea excretion, corrected for urine creatinine and body mass index (BMI) using a validated formula.
What did the study find?
The median protein intake was 53 grams per day, ranging from 40 grams in the lowest quartile to 70 grams in the highest.
After the 21-month follow-up period, it was found that 31% of patients in the lowest quartile of protein intake had died compared to 18% of those in the highest quartile of protein intake.
Following an adjustment for multiple confounders, including age and renal function, patients in the lowest quartile of protein intake had a 46% higher risk of death than those in the highest quartile of protein intake.
Was the study definitive?
Koen Streng, study author and PhD student, University Medical Centre Groningen, the Netherlands, said: “We observed that in patients with heart failure, a higher protein intake is independently associated with better survival. The study did not look at causes for this link, but it is likely that dietary protein builds muscle mass which is beneficial for health in these patients.”
“A randomised controlled trial is needed to determine a recommended amount of daily protein intake for patients with heart failure.”
Press release: ESC