The Isocaloric Substitution of Plant-Based and Animal-Based Protein in Relation to Aging-Related Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review

Jiali Zheng
Tianren Zhu
Tianren Zhu
Guanghuan Yang


Plant-based and animal-based protein intake have differential effects on various aging-related health outcomes, but less is known about the health effect of isocaloric substitution of plant-based and animal-based protein. This systematic review summarized current evidence of the isocaloric substitutional effect of plant-based and animal-based protein on aging-related health outcomes. PubMed and Embase databases were searched for epidemiologic observational studies published in English up to 15 March 2021. Studies that included adults ≥18 years old; use of a nutritional substitution model to define isocaloric substitution of plant protein and animal protein; health outcomes covering mortality, aging-related diseases or indices; and reported association estimates with corresponding 95% confidence intervals were included. Nine cohort studies and 3 cross-sectional studies were identified, with a total of 1,450,178 subjects included in this review. Consistent and significant inverse association of substituting plant protein for various animal proteins on all-cause mortality was observed among 4 out of 5 studies with relative risks (RRs) from 0.54 to 0.95 and on cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality among all 4 studies with RRs from 0.58 to 0.91. Among specific animal proteins, the strongest inverse association on all-cause and CVD mortality was identified when substituting plant protein for red and/or processed meat protein, with the effect mainly limited to bread, cereal, and pasta protein when replacing red meat protein. Isocaloric substitution of plant-based protein for animal-based protein might prevent all-cause and CVD-specific mortality. More studies are needed on this topic, particularly for cancer incidence and other specific aging-related diseases.