The latest in a long line of papers on the many health benefits of reducing meat intake concludes that a plant-based diet is great news for your heart
Vegetarianism is regularly touted as a more healthful option and many people are working to reduce their meat intake. Vegetarianism and veganism may even protect against certain cancers.
A recent review, now published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease, focused on the benefits of a plant-based diet on cardiovascular health, specifically.
Plant-based diets and heart health
The researchers – from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington D.C. – scrutinised reams of recent, relevant studies.
Collating information from a host of clinical trials and observational studies, they found that a plant-based diet was consistently linked with improved measures of heart health.
They concluded, for individuals following a plant-based diet, that:
- Risk of death from cardiovascular disease is reduced by 40 per cent.
- Coronary heart disease risk is reduced by 40 per cent.
- Blocked arteries are unblocked partially or fully in as many as 91 per cent of patients.
- Hypertension risk drops by 34 per cent.
Also, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or ‘bad’, cholesterol levels are much lower in vegetarians compared with non-vegetarians. Moreover, a plant-based diet was shown to be associated with weight loss.
“A plant-based diet has the power to not only prevent heart disease but also manage and sometimes even reverse it – something no drug has ever done,” said study author Dr Hana Kahleova, Ph.D.
Dr Kahleova also notes that more healthful diets and lifestyles lower the risk of heart attack by 81- 94 per cent, while drugs can only lower this risk by 20 -30 per cent.
How does vegetarianism protect the heart?
There seem to be many reasons why a plant-based diet is more healthful for the heart than a meat-heavy one. It seems that plants impart some benefits, while meat increases certain risks.
For instance, plants are rich in fibre and phytonutrients, which are known to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Also, animal products are often high in fat, cholesterol, heme iron, and environmental pollutants.
However, this is a complex interaction, and there may be many more factors involved that are, as yet, unknown.
These findings show that if society could be gently nudged toward plant-based diets and away from excessive meat consumption, humanity’s heart health could be substantially improved.
As Dr Kahleova notes, with more than a dash of positivity, “Heart disease is the world’s leading cause of death. This study proves it doesn’t have to be.”
Source: Medical News Today