High protein intake is known to have several health benefits, including weight loss, and a new study has suggested that foods rich in plant-based protein can increase the life expectancy of a person.

The study, published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, tried to find out the association of animal and plant-based protein intake on mortality rate. The research team found out that people who ate foods rich in plant protein were less likely to die early than those who had animal-based protein.

For the study, the research team observed a total of 70, 696 middle-aged Japanese adults for a period of 18 years. During the study period, 12,381 participants died due to several chronic illnesses. While 5,055 deaths were caused due to cancer, 3,025 were due to cardiovascular illness, 1,528 from heart disease and 1,198 were caused due to cerebrovascular illness.

At the end of the study, the research team found out that protein from meat did not influence the longevity of a person. They also found that people who consumed large amount of plant-based protein were 13 percent less likely to die and 16 percent less likely to die due to cardiovascular disease.

Through the study, the research team also found that people who replaced red meat with plant protein were less likely to die of any cause, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other chronic illnesses. The study stated that participants who replaced only four percent of processed meat with plant-based protein were 50 percent less likely to die of cancer and 46 percent less likely to die of any cause.

Meanwhile, people who replaced three percent of red meat with plant protein were 42 percent less likely to die due to cardiovascular disease, 39 percent less likely to die of cancer and 34 percent less likely to die of any other cause, the researchers noted.

However, the study had its own limitations, mainly because it was not a controlled experiment that was designed to prove if a type of protein or how the amount of protein consumed by people can directly impact their life expectancy. The research team assessed the diet plan of each of the participants only at the beginning of the study and they may have changed their eating habits over time.

The research team concluded the study by stating that “in this large prospective study, higher plant protein intake was associated with lower total and CVD-related mortality. Although animal protein intake was not associated with mortality outcomes, replacement of red meat protein or processed meat protein with plant protein was associated with lower total, cancer-related, and CVD-related mortality”.