Plant-based foods associated with a lower risk of heart diseases, study shows

USA – Diets higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in a general population, according to new study by Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study revealed that plant-based diets were associated with lower risk of diseases such as obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and ischemic heart disease.

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The researchers examined data from 12,168 adults who were 45 to 64 at baseline in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, who were followed up from 1987 through 2016.

According to the study, people in the highest quintile of adhering to plant-based diets had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to people in the lowest quintile.

The percentages were 31% to 32% lower risk for cardiovascular disease mortality and 18% to 25% lower risk for all-cause mortality.

Researchers examined four types of diets: an overall plant-based diet, a diet based primarily on healthy plants like green vegetables, a vegetarian diet and a diet that included more unhealthy plant-based meals based on starches and processed foods.

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People in the highest quintile of adhering to an overall plant-based diet, a healthy plant-based diet or a vegetarian diet on average consumed 4.1 to 4.8 servings of fruit and vegetables per day and 0.8 to 0.9 servings of red and processed meat per day.

People in the highest quintile for an unhealthy plant-based diet on average consumed 2.3 servings of fruit and vegetables per day and 1.2 servings of red and processed meat per day.

According to the study, in the overall plant-based diet index and provegetarian diet index, higher intakes of all or selected plant foods received higher scores while in the healthy plant-based diet index, higher intakes of only the healthy plant foods received higher scores.

In the less healthy plant-based diet index, higher intakes of only the less healthy plant foods received higher scores. In all indexes,higher intakes of animal foods received lower scores.

Higher adherence to a healthy plant-based diet index was associated with a 19% and 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and all-cause mortality, respectively, but not incident cardiovascular disease.

 “Dietary patterns that are relatively higher in plant foods and relatively lower in animal foods may confer benefits for cardiovascular health,” the researchers concluded.

“Considering the adverse outcomes associated with refined carbohydrate consumption, future research should continue to explore if the quality of plant foods (either healthy plant foods or less healthy plant foods) within the framework of plant-based diets is associated with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in a general population.”

No associations were observed between the less healthy plant-based diet index and the outcomes.

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