Simple Diet Advice for Heart Health in 2018
The evidence for the heart-healthy effects of vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based diets in general just keeps getting stronger. New studies suggest that adopting the principals of plant-based diets could be a smart way to start the New Year.
Researchers at New York University School of Medicine recently pitted vegan diets against the diet recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). It allows limited amounts of lean meat, eggs, and low-fat dairy along with abundant vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes. Vegans shun all animal-based foods, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
Over the course of the study, those observing a vegan diet saw a 20 percent drop in the concentrations of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), an important marker for chronic inflammation, compared to those on the AHA diet. The study was small, comprised of about 100 people, so more research is needed. Still it points to significant benefits from emphasizing fruits, vegetables and other plant foods in the diet.
Plant-based diets came out ahead in another recent analysis by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital. The study involved more than 15,000 people with no known heart problems and compared five dietary patterns. These included:
- Convenience (red meats, pastas, fried potatoes, fast food)
- Plant-based (dark green, leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, fish)
- Sweets (desserts, breads, sweet breakfast foods, chocolate, candy)
- Southern (eggs, fried food, organ meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages)
- Alcohol/salads (salad dressings, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, wine, butter, liquor).
The intriguing results: Those who adhered to a plant-based diet had a 42 percent decreased risk for heart failure over the study’s four years, compared to those eating fewer plant foods, even after adjusting for the effects of age, sex, race, and other risk factors. Those following other dietary patterns saw no such reduction.
While more people are turning to plant-rich diets, a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health serves as a reminder that you can eat a plant-based diet and still not eat optimally. In the study, researchers divided up participants—approximately 210,000 people—into categories based on how closely they adhered to a plant-based diet and also compared people who ate more of the healthiest plant foods (whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts) with those who ate more of the least healthy plant foods (sugary beverages, refined grains, sweets, and potatoes). People in the healthiest plant-based diet group were 25 percent less likely to develop heart disease over the next 20 years than those who ate the least-healthy version.
The take home: Commit to a plant-based regime in 2018 to improve your heart’s health. And remember, the higher the quality of plant foods on your plate, the greater the cardiovascular benefits.
From all of us at the Cleveland HeartLab, best wishes for a happy—and healthy—New Year!