People who usually follow a plant-based diet (a diet that is predominantly plant-based and excludes meat, eggs, dairy products, and all other ingredients derived from animals) have a lower risk of heart attack than people who consume a lot of meat and refined carbohydrates, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study shows that diets that emphasize higher intake of plant foods and lower intake of animal foods are associated with a lower risk of accidental cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular mortality, and overall adult mortality population in the US.
In addition, it supports the consumption of healthy vegan diets, diets higher in plant foods with solid nutrients and lower in refined carbohydrates and animal foods. Consumption of this diet has been found to be associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality and all-cause mortality, but not cardiovascular disease.
Previous studies have documented the cardiometabolic health benefits of plant-based diets; however, these studies were conducted in selected populations of studies that have a narrow generalizability.
In this study, researchers tracked 12,168 middle-aged adults for three decades, evaluating their eating habits at several points. During the study, 5 366 subjects died, including 1565, who died of cardiovascular disease.
Compared to those who are most in the vegetable or vegetarian diet, those with diets heavier on animal products and refined carbohydrates are 31% to 32% more likely to die of heart disease and 18% to 25% more likely to die of all causes during the study.
People who did not eat a lot of plant-based meals were also 16% more likely to develop heart failure or have a fatal heart attack or stroke than the participants who ate the most plants.
"Plant-based diets seem to be growing in popularity, and our study provides more evidence to suggest that eating a plant-based diet may be beneficial for your heart health," says Casey Rebholz, senior research author and researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
"People need to make sure they consume enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limit their intake of red and processed meat," Rebholtz said by email.
At the beginning of the study, participants were 45-64 years old and free of heart disease. Those who are most adherent to the plant or vegetarian diet over the next 30 years are more likely to be women, whites, college graduates and physically active. They are less likely to be obese, smokers or have high blood pressure or diabetes.
Vegetarians and those who eat most of the healthy plant foods are also 16% less likely than those who ate the least to be diagnosed with heart disease at follow-up.
But not all vegetarian and plant-based diets are equally beneficial, according to researchers at the American Heart Association.
They considered four types of diets in terms of the type and amount of plant content: a complete plant-based diet; one based mainly on healthy plants such as green vegetables; an entirely vegetarian diet; and a fourth diet, which included more unhealthy starch-based plant foods like potatoes and processed foods.
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