Vegan diets 'significantly' lower heart attack risk, new study shows | Totally Vegan Buzz

Vegan diets ‘significantly’ lower heart attack risk, new study shows

25% of millennial Brits say a vegan diet is more appealing following COVID-19
Image: RossHelen / shutterstock.com

The study reviewed four decades of data.

Veggie or vegan diets can slash your cholesterol levels and lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to new research.

The study was published in the European Heart Journal last week.

Study

Professor Ruth Frikke-Schmidt, chief physician at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark and her team studied 30 randomised trials with a total of 2,372 participants spanning from 1982 and 2022. They wanted to see if a vegetarian or vegan diet had an effect on cholesterol and fats in the blood compared to a diet that included meat.

The researchers found that those on a vegetarian or vegan diet had a significant decrease in all types of cholesterol, bad cholesterol, triglycerides and protein that carries fats and cholesterol in the blood.

This diet reduced bad cholesterol levels by 10% and apoB by 14%. The average time people were on the diets was 29 weeks, ranging from 10 days to five years.

 According to the researchers, the effect of the diet was “really substantial”, being equivalent to about a third of taking daily drugs

“We found that vegetarian and vegan diets were associated with a 14% reduction in all artery-clogging lipoproteins as indicated by apolipoprotein B (apoB),” Frikke-Schmidt said.

“This corresponds to a third of the effect of taking cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins, and would result in a 7% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease in someone who maintained a plant-based diet for five years.”

She added: “Statin treatment is superior to plant-based diets in reducing fats and cholesterol levels.

“However, one regimen does not exclude the other, and combining statins with plant-based diets is likely to have a synergistic effect, resulting in an even larger beneficial effect.

“If people start eating vegetarian or vegan diets from an early age, the potential for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease caused by blocked arteries is substantial.”

25% of millennial Brits say a vegan diet is more appealing following COVID-19
Image: Nina Firsova / shutterstock.com

Impact of plant-based diets across age, ethnicities and demographics

The study has been the first of its kind to compare omnivorous and vegetarian diets published since 2017, and also the only one that had considered the impact of the continent, age, body mass index, and health status, or looked specifically at the effect of diet on concentrations of apoB.

It showed positive results across people of different ages, weights, ethnicities and health status.

“Importantly, we found similar results across continents, ages, different ranges of body mass index, and among people in different states of health,” Frikke-Schmidt said.

According to The World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease kills more than 18 million people every year.

Other benefits

The team added that transitioning to plant-based eating can also help stem climate change.

“Recent systematic reviews have shown that if the populations of high-income countries shift to plant-based diets, this can reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases by between 35% to 49%. Our study provides robust evidence that plant-based diets are good for our health for people of different sizes, ages and health conditions,” Frikke-Schmidt explained.

“Furthermore, populations globally are aging and, as a consequence, the cost of treating age-related diseases such as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is increasing,” she added. “Plant-based diets are key instruments for changing food production to more environmentally sustainable forms, while at the same time reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease. We should be eating a varied, plant-rich diet, not too much, and quenching our thirst with water.”

Limitations of the study

While the study findings are promising and conform to several other researches that have shown the benefits of removing meat and dairy from one’s diet. However, researchers said that more, larger studies with longer timeframes are needed.

Tracy Parker, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This study only looked at people eating strict vegan and vegetarian diets over a short period of time, and some people can find it hard to consistently follow these diets long-term.

“Some may find it easier to follow a Mediterranean-style diet that features plenty of fruit, vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, fish, eggs and low fat dairy, with only small amounts of meat.

“If you want to make healthy changes to your diet, a great place to start is the Eatwell guide, which is the basis for our healthy eating recommendations in the UK.”

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