Plant-Based Diet Lowers Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, Study Suggests

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Dallas, TX—Upping plant-based food intake and eating fewer animal-based foods may be linked to better heart health, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers reviewed a database of food intake information from more than 10,000 middle-aged U.S. adults who were monitored from 1987-2016, and who did not have cardiovascular disease at the start of the study.

Compared to people who ate the least amount of plant-based foods, people who ate the most plant-based foods had a:

  • 16% lower risk of contracting a cardiovascular disease
  • 32% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease
  • 25% lower risk of dying from any cause
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Casey M. Rebholz, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead researcher, said in a press release: “Our findings underscore the importance of focusing on your diet. There might be some variability in terms of individual foods, but to reduce cardiovascular disease risk people should eat more vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fruits, legumes and fewer animal-based foods. These findings are pretty consistent with previous findings about other dietary patterns.”

Rebholz noted that this is one of the first studies to examine the effects of plant-based diets in the general population, rather than in specific populations of people.

Mariell Jessup, M.D., chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association, said in the release: “The American Heart Association recommends eating a mostly plant-based diet, provided the foods you choose are rich in nutrition and low in added sugars, sodium, cholesterol, and artery-clogging saturated and trans fats. For example, French fries or cauliflower pizza with cheese are plant-based, but are low in nutritional value and are loaded with sodium. Unprocessed foods, like fresh fruit, vegetables and grains are good choices.”

Given that the study was observational, it did not prove cause and effect.

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