Blogs-4 Studies Show Plant-Based Diets Reduce Heart Disease Risk In Young Adults and Older Women
Posted by Minrui Zou on
You’re hearing so much more about “plant-based” diets, which are not quite strict vegetarianism or veganism, but more solidly flexitarian. And for very good reason, studies continue to be published demonstrating a wide variety of long-term good health results of following such a diet.
For example, eating a plant-centered diet during young adulthood is associated with a lower risk of heart disease in middle age, according to a long-term study with 30 years of follow-up. A separate study with 15 years of follow-up found that eating more plant-based foods that have been shown to lower cholesterol, called the 'Portfolio Diet', is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women.
One study evaluated whether long-term consumption of a plant-centered diet and a shift toward a plant-centered diet starting in young adulthood are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in midlife. "Earlier research was focused on single nutrients or single foods, yet there is little data about a plant-centered diet and the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease," said Yuni Choi, Ph.D., lead author of the young adult study.
Choi and colleagues examined diet and the occurrence of heart disease in 4,946 adults enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Participants were 18- to 30-years-old at the time of enrollment (1985-1986) in this study and were free of cardiovascular disease at that time.
After detailed diet history interviews, researchers found:
"A nutritionally rich, plant-centered diet is beneficial for cardiovascular health. A plant-centered diet is not necessarily vegetarian," Choi said. "People can choose among plant foods that are as close to natural as possible, not highly processed. We think that individuals can include animal products in moderation from time to time, such as non-fried poultry, non-fried fish, eggs and low-fat dairy."
In another study, researchers evaluated whether diets that included a dietary portfolio of plant-based foods with FDA-approved health claims for lowering "bad" cholesterol levels (known as the "Portfolio Diet") were associated with fewer cardiovascular disease events in a large group of postmenopausal women.
The "Portfolio Diet" includes nuts; plant protein from soy, beans or tofu; viscous soluble fiber from oats, barley, okra, eggplant, oranges, apples and berries; plant sterols from enriched foods and monounsaturated fats found in olive and canola oil and avocadoes; along with limited consumption of saturated fats and dietary cholesterol.
The study analyzed whether postmenopausal women who followed the Portfolio Diet experienced fewer heart disease events. The study included 123,330 women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative, a long-term national study looking at risk factors, prevention and early detection of serious health conditions in postmenopausal women. When the women in this analysis enrolled in the study between 1993 and 1998, they were between 50-79 years old (average age of 62) and did not have cardiovascular disease. The study group was followed until 2017 (average follow-up time of 15.3 years).
- Compared to women who followed the Portfolio Diet less frequently, those with the closest alignment were 11% less likely to develop any type of cardiovascular disease, 14% less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 17% less likely to develop heart failure.
- There was no association between following the Portfolio Diet more closely and the occurrence of stroke or atrial fibrillation.
"These results present an important opportunity, as there is still room for people to incorporate more cholesterol-lowering plant foods into their diets. With even greater adherence to the Portfolio dietary pattern, one would expect an association with even less cardiovascular events, perhaps as much as cholesterol-lowering medications. Still, an 11% reduction is clinically meaningful and would meet anyone's minimum threshold for a benefit. The results indicate the Portfolio Diet yields heart-health benefits," said John Sievenpiper, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study.
The researchers believe the results highlight possible opportunities to lower heart disease by encouraging people to consume more foods in the Portfolio Diet.