The roles of different dietary proteins in the aetiology of type 2 diabetes (T2D) remain unclear. We investigated the associations of dietary proteins with the risk of incident T2D in Finnish men from the prospective Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. The study included 2332 men aged 42–60 years at the baseline examinations in 1984–1989. Protein intakes were calculated from 4-d dietary records. Incident T2D was determined by self-administered questionnaires, fasting blood glucose measurements, 2-h oral glucose tolerance tests, and with national registers. The multivariable-adjusted risk of T2D on the basis of protein intakes was compared by the Cox proportional hazard ratios (HR). During the mean follow-up of 19·3 years, 432 incident T2D cases were identified. Total, animal, meat or dairy product protein intakes were not associated with risk of T2D when the potential confounders were accounted for. Plant (multivariable-adjusted extreme-quartile HR 0·65; 95 % CI 0·42, 1·00; P
trend 0·04) and egg (HR 0·67; 95 % CI 0·44, 1·00; P
trend 0·03) protein intakes were associated with a decreased risk of T2D. Adjustments for BMI, plasma glucose and serum insulin slightly attenuated associations. Replacing 1 % energy from carbohydrates with energy from protein was associated with a 5 % (95 % CI 0, 11) increased risk of T2D, but adjustment for fibre intake attenuated the association. Replacing 1 % of energy from animal protein with energy from plant protein was associated with 18 % (95 % CI 0, 32) decreased risk of T2D. This association remained after adjusting for BMI. In conclusion, favouring plant and egg proteins appeared to be beneficial in preventing T2D.