In a new study, Dr. Casey Rebholz from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and colleagues examined the diets of middle-aged adults living in the United States and found that those following diets higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods had a lower risk of incident cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all-cause mortality. The team’s paper was published August 7, 2019 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“While you don’t have to give up foods derived from animals completely, our study does suggest that eating a larger proportion of plant-based foods and a smaller proportion of animal-based foods may help reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other type of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Rebholz said.
She and her team reviewed a database of food intake information from more than 10,000 middle-aged U.S. adults who were monitored from 1987 through 2016 and did not have cardiovascular disease at the start of the stud.
The researchers then categorized the participants’ eating patterns by the proportion of plant-based foods they ate versus animal-based foods.
People who ate the most plant-based foods overall had: (i) 16% lower risk of having a cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks, stroke, heart failure and other conditions; (ii) 32% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease; and (iii) 25% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who ate the least amount of plant-based foods.
“Our findings underscore the importance of focusing on your diet,” Dr. Rebholz said.
“There might be some variability in terms of individual foods, but to reduce cardiovascular disease risk people should eat more vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fruits, legumes and fewer animal-based foods.”
“These findings are pretty consistent with previous findings about other dietary patterns, including the DASH diet, which emphasize the same food items.”
This is one of the first studies to examine the proportion of plant-based versus animal-based dietary patterns in the general population.
Prior studies have shown heart-health benefits from plant-based diets but only in specific populations of people.
“Future research on plant-based diets should examine whether the quality of plant foods — healthy versus less healthy — impacts cardiovascular disease and death risks,” Dr. Rebholz said.
Hyunju Kim et al. 2019. Plant-Based Diets Are Associated With a Lower Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Disease Mortality, and All-Cause Mortality in a General Population of Middle-Aged Adults. Journal of the American Heart Association 8 (16): e012865; doi: 10.1161/JAHA.119.012865