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Eating a Plant-Based Diet for 5 Weeks Can Lower 10-Year Heart Disease Risk

Lifestyle changes can have a measurable impact on health, even after a short period of time. In this study, 36 African American participants in Chicago ate a completely plant-based diet for 5 weeks and had their heart disease (specifically, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease) 10-year risk scores calculated both before and after the study. After eating the plant-based diet, the 10-year heart disease risk was reduced by 19.4%, “bad” LDL cholesterol was lowered by 14%, and their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) was lowered by 10 mm Hg.
Circulation. 2019 Nov 11;140:A16318 (Fugar S et al.)

Small Amounts of Red and Processed Meat Linked with Cardiovascular Death

Seventh-Day Adventism is a religion which promotes a vegetarian diet and overall healthy lifestyle as a spiritual practice. In this study, researchers followed a cohort of over 90,000 Seventh-Day Adventists for an average of about 12 years and analyzed their consumption of red and processed meats. They found that participants who ate the most red and processed meat tended to be less physically active, were more likely to smoke tobacco and drink alcohol, and had a lower intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains than the participants who ate no meat at all. Compared to vegetarians, participants who ate red and processed meat were more likely to die of any cause and of cardiovascular disease. Notably, the participants who ate the most red and processed meat in this study (about 1.5 ounces per day) still have a relatively low consumption when compared to the average American diet (sometimes closer to 5 ounces per day). This suggests that even a low consumption of red and processed meats may have negative health effects.
Nutrients.  2019 Mar 14;11(3). pii: E622. doi: 10.3390/nu11030622. (Alshahrani SM et al)

Plant-Based Korean Diet with Brown Rice Can Improve Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar in Hospitalized Patients

Many people are surprised at how effective lifestyle changes can be when it comes to managing chronic disease. In this study, 160 hospital patients in South Korea with high blood pressure changed their diet to eat a plant-based (vegan) diet based on brown rice at each meal, with lots of kimchi and pickled vegetables, fermented soy foods, and lots of other vegetables (both raw and cooked). They averaged about 1,700 calories per day and did not eat any refined grains or any noodles or breads, relying on brown rice as the staple. Their sodium intake was quite high, at 7,382mg per day. However, after about 2 weeks, 86% of the patients were able to stop taking their blood pressure and diabetes medications, and their reduced blood pressure levels remained stable even after stopping the medications. Similarly, HBA1C reduced from 7.6 to 7.2, indicating better blood sugar management. More research is needed to see if similar approaches might be effective in other populations.
Journal of Ethnic Foods. 2018 Nov 1. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jef.2018.09.002 (Jung SJ et al.)

Protein from Nuts and Seeds Linked with Less Death from Heart Disease than Protein from Meat

Protein is important for our muscles, enzymes, and numerous essential body processes, but not all protein is created equal. To see how different protein sources relate to heart disease deaths, researchers carefully analyzed the diets of 81,337 men and women. Those getting more protein from nuts and seeds were significantly less likely to die from heart disease than those not getting as much protein from nuts and seeds. On the other hand, those getting more protein from animal sources had a higher risk of dying from heart disease. The relationship between heart disease death and these foods was so strong, even after controlling for other diet and lifestyle factors, that the researchers concluded that the link “could not be ascribed to other associated nutrients considered to be important for cardiovascular health.”
International Journal of Epidemiology. 2018 Apr 2. [Epub ahead of print] (Tharrey M et al.)

Healthy Plant-Based Diets Linked with Lower Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

Wholesome plant foods are the foundation of a healthy diet, but not all “vegetarian” foods are equally nutritious. To see how different variations of plant-based diets relate to the risk of developing coronary heart disease (when plaque builds and hardens in the heart’s major blood vessels and decreases blood flow), researchers analyzed data detailing what more than 200,000 people ate over 20 years and separated people into three versions of plant based diets: overall plant-based diet (includes all plant foods and some animal foods), healthful plant-based diet (includes healthy plant foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables), and unhealthful plant-based diet (includes sugar-sweetened drinks and refined grains). Not surprisingly, they found that the second choice – eating fewer animal foods and more healthy plant foods – was linked with a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, while eating more animal foods and more unhealthy plant foods was linked with an increased chance of developing coronary heart disease.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017 July; 70(4):411-422. (Satija et al.)

Legumes Linked with Heart Health

Legumes, the food group that includes beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts, are central to traditional diets around the world. To see how legumes relate to heart health, scientists reviewed 14 studies with 367,000 participants in both Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean populations. They found that a high intake of legumes (roughly less than one serving per day, or three to four servings per week) was associated with a 6% lower risk of any heart disease, and a 10% lower risk of coronary heart disease specifically. However, no association was found between legume consumption and stroke risk.
Journal of Public Health Nutrition. 2017 Feb;20(2):245-254. (Marventano S et al.)

Plant-based Diets Improve Heart Disease Markers in Overweight Kids

Plant-based diets have proven effective at reducing heart disease markers in adults, but with a large proportion of overweight and obese children, experts wonder if dietary interventions are effective on kids as well. In a small study in the Midwestern US, twenty-eight overweight and obese children (average age = 15) and their parents were assigned to either a plant-based vegan (no animal products at all), no-added fat diet (with only moderate avocado and nuts) or an American Heart Association diet (high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but also includes low fat dairy, some plant oils, lean meat and fish, and permits some refined grains) for four weeks. The plant-based group significantly improved nine different risk factors of heart disease (including improved blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight), while the American Heart Association Diet significantly improved four risk factors.
The Journal of Pediatrics. 2015 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print] (Macknin M et al.)

Vegetarian Diets May Lower Blood Pressure

Researchers in Japan and the United States reviewed data from over 21,000 people to investigate the association between vegetarian diets and blood pressure. After analyzing 32 observational studies and 7 controlled trials published between 1900 and 2013, the scientists found that eating a vegetarian diet is associated with a significant reduction in both systolic (4.8-6.9 mm Hg decrease) and diastolic (2.2-4.7 mm Hg decrease) blood pressure compared with diets that include meat.
JAMA Internal Medicine. 2014 April; 174(4):577-587 (Yokoyama Y et al.)

Nuts Associated with Lower Mortality Rate

Researchers examined the eating patterns of more than 76,000 women and more than 42,000 men over 24 to 30 years to assess the health effects of eating nuts. They discovered that eating nuts is associated with a reduced risk of mortality overall and specifically from cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. As nut consumption increased (from none at all, to weekly, to daily), the incidences of mortality also decreased. Researchers noted that all types of nuts appear to have the same health benefit and did not see a difference between individual types, including peanuts and tree nuts.

The New England Journal of Medicine. 2013 November 21; 369:2001-2011 (Bao, et al.)

Study Shows Vegetarian Diet Leads to Longer Life

A study conducted as part of the Adventist Health Study 2 found that adhering to a vegetarian diet led to lower all-cause mortality. The study conducted by scientists from Loma Linda University in California analyzed information collected from a group of Seventh Day Adventists taking part in a cohort study. They found that not only is a vegetarian diet associated with lower all cause mortality but also lower cardiovascular, renal, and endocrine mortality.
JAMA intern Med. 2013; 173(13):1230-1238. (Orlich et al.)

Vegetarian Diet and Heart Health

A group of scientists in England conducted a study that looked at 44,000 people enrolled in a study in England and Scotland. They measured factors that are related to heart health and ischemic heart disease. After comparing vegetarians to non-vegetarians they found that vegetarians were 32% less likely to develop ischemic heart disease.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 97:597-603. (Crowe et al.)

Lacto-Vegetarian Diet Cuts Heart Risk

It is known that vegetarians have lower incidence of risk factors for coronary heart disease including lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, lower prevalence of obesity, and healthier lifestyle overall.  It is hypothesized that this reduction in risk factors is due to the consumption of a primarily plant-based diet.  To test this idea, Swedish scientists asked 20 volunteers to switch from their usual omnivorous diet to a lacto-vegetarian diet (no meat, fish or eggs, but dairy is allowed) for a full year. Dietitians offered advice and cooking classes, and researchers took dietary surveys and blood samples at the start and every three months throughout the year. Subjects lost a significant amount of weight and significantly lowered their BMIs; they also significantly lowered their blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol – all risk markers for coronary heart disease
Open Journal of Preventative Medicine. February 2012;2(1):16-22.  [Johansson et al.]

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