More Plants on the Plate Might Improve Heart Health

Heart disease rates were lower in patients with plant-heavy diets

(RxWiki News) You may not have to completely give up meat to reap some of the possible benefits of a vegetarian diet.

A recent study found that people who ate mostly plant-based foods had healthier hearts.

The authors of this study looked at the eating habits of adults for several years and took note of any diseases they developed. They found that people who ate mostly vegetarian were less likely to die of heart disease or stroke than those whose diet was mostly non-plant-based foods.

A pro-vegetarian diet “results in an improved nutritionally balanced diet,” said lead author Camille Lassale, PhD, of the Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, in a press statement.

This study included almost half a million people, mostly women, and lasted for about 12 years.

Dr. Lassale and team studied the patients’ diet, exercise habits and lifestyle. They also looked at data on any deaths that occurred.

These researchers sorted the patients into groups based on how “pro-vegetarian” their eating habits were. People whose diets consisted of more than 70 percent plants were the most pro-vegetarian. The least pro-vegetarian group ate less than 45 percent plant-based foods.

Compared to the people who ate the least fruits, grains, beans and veggies, the most pro-veggie group had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.

A pro-vegetarian diet appeared heart-healthy and often included less added sugar and unhealthy fat, Dr. Lassale and team found. However, these researchers said, it may not be necessary to cut out meat entirely to improve heart health.

“Instead of drastic avoidance of animal-based foods, substituting some of the meat in your diet with plant-based sources may be a very simple, useful way to lower cardiovascular mortality,” Dr. Lassale said.

This research was presented March 5 during an American Heart Association Meeting in Baltimore, MD. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Dr. Lassale and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 6, 2015