- Adopting a plant-based diet can lead to an average of 7% reduction in total cholesterol levels, 10% decline in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and 14% drop in apolipoprotein B.
- These outcomes solidify the role plant-based diets play in diminishing the risk of cardiovascular disease and occurrences such as stroke and heart attack.
- Regardless of continent, age, body mass index, and health status, the results of implementing a plant-based diet are consistent.
- Shifting to a plant-based diet could not only improve health but also contribute to reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by 35% to 49% in high-income countries, mitigating the impacts of climate change.
- While plant-based diets have proven benefits, cholesterol-lowering medications still lead in terms of reducing fats and cholesterol levels, suggesting that they can be used together for amplified benefits.
A switch to vegetarianism or veganism results in decreased levels of cholesterol and fats in the blood, as evidenced by a comprehensive analysis of evidence accumulated from clinical trials since 1982.
Cholesterol Reductions Found in Plant-Based Diets
Compared to those consuming a diet including both plant and animal products, individuals adopting a plant-based lifestyle experienced an average of 7% reduction in total cholesterol levels from the initial levels at the studies’ commencement. The analysis further revealed a 10% decline in the levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol – often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol – and a 14% drop in apolipoprotein B, a blood protein that aids in estimating cholesterol level.
The Proven Heart Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
These outcomes underline the substantial role plant-based diets have in reducing arteriosclerosis or blocked arteries — lessening the likelihood of occurrences such as stroke and heart attack. The researcher, Dr. Ruth Frikke-Schmidt, principal physician at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark, stresses the notable potential for reducing cardiovascular disease risk, especially if veganism or vegetarianism is embraced early in life. She stated that all groups of individuals, including those from diverse continents, ages, body mass index ranges, and health statuses, exhibited similar results. [/p>
Plant-Based Diets: One Size Fits All Approach
The positive impacts of vegetarian and vegan diets were observed in individuals of all body types, including those classified as normal weight to obese. The extensive review utilized data gathered from 30 distinctly separate clinical trials involving nearly 2,400 participants conducted between the years 1982 and 2022. Participants were randomly assigned to either continue their omnivorous diet or transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet. The duration of these diets varied, ranging from 10 days to five years, with an average of 29 weeks.
Current Findings Relative to Previous Studies
The study singularly represents the first of its kind, providing a comparative review of omnivorous and vegetarian diets since 2017. Interestingly, no previous study had considered variables such as apolipoprotein B levels and the determining factors of continent, age, body mass index, and health status. The study ominously points out that approximately 18 million people succumb to heart disease annually across the globe, making it the leading cause of death.
Addressing Climate Change Through Diet
In addition to these health benefits, a transition toward vegetarian and vegan diets could mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change. Recent systematic reviews have demonstrated that a shift to plant-based diets could reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 35% to 49% in high-income countries. Frikke-Schmidt further emphasises the agility of plant-based diets in catering for individuals of differing sizes, ages, and health conditions. These diets also pave the way for more sustainable food production, all while lowering the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases.
Prescription Medications May Still Outperform Diets Alone
Yet, it is essential to note that despite their benefits, plant-based diets do not outperform cholesterol-lowering statin medications in terms of reducing fats and cholesterol levels. However, this does not exclude the possibility of combining the two for even more significant benefits.
Benefits of Mediterranean Diet Remain Untested Against Omnivorous Diets
The study could not directly compare fish-based diets — such as the Mediterranean diet — against omnivorous diets due to insufficient research data. Yet, the undeniable presence of plant-based food and fish in the Mediterranean diet have garner it a reputable position in dietary guidelines. According to Frikke-Schmidt, larger and longer duration studies are needed to further evaluate diets’ effects on factors such as apolipoprotein B and other biomarkers linked to conditions like inflammation and insulin resistance.
For More Information
You can find more on becoming a vegetarian at the Harvard Medical School’s website.
Source: _European Heart Journal_, news release, May 25, 2023