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New research adds to the mounting body of evidence that eating more plant-based foods and fewer animal ones may contribute to a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.

A growing body of evidence is showing that a plant-based diet could benefit cardiovascular health.

One such recent study found that eating more plant-based foods slashes the risk of heart failure by 40%, while another one found that a vegetarian diet cuts the risk of heart disease death by the same percentage.

Now, a new study appearing in the Journal of the American Heart Association strengthens these findings, as researchers find that eating more vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains and fewer animal products correlate with a much lower risk of dying of a heart attack or other serious cardiovascular event.

Casey M. Rebholz, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, is the lead author of the new study.

Studying dietary intake and heart health

Rebholz and colleagues examined data from 12,168 middle-aged people who had enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The ARIC project clinically followed the participants between 1987 and 2016.

The researchers in the latest study categorized the participants’ diet using four diet indexes, “In the overall plant-based diet index and pro-vegetarian diet index,” they explain, “higher intakes of all or selected plant foods received higher scores.”

“In the healthy plant-based diet index, higher intakes of only the healthy plant foods received higher scores,” while “in the less healthy plant-based diet index, higher intakes of only the less healthy plant foods received higher scores.”

The researchers applied three Cox proportional hazards models to calculate hazard ratios and assess “the association between plant-based diet scores and incident cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all-cause mortality.”

25% lower risk of death from any cause

The findings reveal that the participants who had the highest intake of plant-based foods and scored the highest on the indexes were 16% less likely to have a cardiovascular condition — such as a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure — when the researchers compared them with adults who consumed the smallest amount of plant-based foods.

High plant-based food consumers were also 25% less likely to die from any cause and had a 32% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular condition.

“While you don’t have to give up foods derived from animals completely, our study does suggest that eating a larger proportion of plant-based foods and a smaller proportion of animal-based foods may help reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other types of cardiovascular disease,” says the lead researcher.

“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,” said Casey M. Rebholz

Dr Mariell Jessup, the chief science and medical officer of the American Heart Association (AHA), who was not involved in the study, also comments on the results.

She says, “The AHA recommends eating a mostly plant-based diet, provided the foods you choose are rich in nutrition and low in added sugars, sodium (salt), cholesterol and artery-clogging saturated and trans fats.”

Dr Jessup explained, “For example, French fries or cauliflower pizza with cheese are plant-based but are low in nutritional value and are loaded with sodium (salt). Unprocessed foods, like fresh fruit, vegetables, and grains, are good choices.”

Source: Medical News Today

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