Doctors recommend plant-based diets, defined as dietary patterns that exclude some or all animal foods to reduce your risk of heart problems. However, some plant-based diets may actually increase your risk of heart problems. This is according to a brand new Harvard study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
There have been a number of limitations in past studies that have looked at the impact of a plant-based diet. For example, these studies treated all plant foods equally even though certain plant foods like sugar-sweetened beverages and refined grains are tied to an increased risk of cardio-metabolic disease. Researchers behind this new study overcame these limitations by creating three versions of a plant-based diet. Read on for the full story…
New study ties some plant-based diets to higher risk of heart problems
The three plant-based diets the researchers created were as follows: An overall plant-based diet with an emphasis on all plant food and reduced animal food intake, a healthful plant-based diet with an emphasis on the intake of healthy plan foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and an unhealthful plant-based diet with an emphasis on less healthy plant foods like refined grains.
The researchers used a baseline sample of 73,710 women from the Nurses' Health Study, 92,320 women from the Nurses’ Health Study 2 and 43,259 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. They made each participant fill out a follow-up questionnaire on their health behaviours, lifestyle and medical history every year for two years. At baseline, researchers exclude participants with stroke, cancer
, coronary heart disease
and coronary artery surgery.
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During the study, 8,631 participants developed coronary heart disease
. Overall, the researchers tied a plant-based diet to a lower risk of heart disease. A higher intake of healthy plant foods was associated with a lower risk of heart problems. However, a plant-based diet emphasised by unhealthy plant foods was associated with a higher risk of heart problems.
The bottom line: The quality of foods matters when it comes to a plant-based diet
Ambika Satija, ScD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston and the study’s lead author, reported on the findings: “When we examined the associations of the three food categories with heart disease risk, we found that healthy plant foods were associated with lower risk, whereas less healthy plant foods and animal foods were associated with higher risk.”
Satija concluded that it’s apparent that there’s a huge variation in the nutritional quality of plant foods, so anyone following a plant-based diet should consider the quality of foods in their diet to reduce their risk of heart problems.