Plant-based diets are becoming more popular in many areas of the world, but the health benefits of this dietary pattern may depend largely on the specific foods consumed. A new study being presented at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session Together with World Congress of Cardiology (ACC.20/WCC) suggests that people following a plant-based diet who frequently consumed less-healthful foods like sweets, refined grains and juice showed no heart health benefit compared with those who did not eat a plant-based diet.
Based on these results, it seems that simply following a plant-based or vegetarian diet is not enough to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. It is also important to focus on specific, healthful plant-based food groups to see a benefit in terms of reducing cardiovascular disease." Demosthenes Panagiotakos, PhD, professor of biostatistics, research methods and epidemiology at Harokopio University of Athens, Greece and the study's lead author
Researchers tracked eating behavior and the development of heart disease among more than 2,000 Greek adults over a 10-year period, beginning in 2002. Participants were asked to complete a detailed food frequency survey at the time of enrollment, after five years and after 10 years.
At the end of the study period, researchers analyzed the relationship between diet and the development of cardiovascular disease using a dietary index that divided participants into three groups based on the number of animal-based foods (which included meats as well as animal-derived products such as eggs and dairy) they consumed per day. Overall, men eating fewer animal-based foods were 25% less likely to develop heart disease compared to men eating more animal-based foods. The same overall trend was seen in women, but the relationship was less strong, with an overall risk reduction of about 11% among women eating the fewest animal-based foods.
Even though the difference in cardiovascular disease risk was significant between these groups, the overall difference in consumption of animal-based foods was relatively small. Those following a more plant-based diet consumed, on average, three animal-based foods daily while those following a less plant-based diet consumed five. Related Stories
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