A number of studies have revealed the benefit of a plant based diet. Now the American Heart Association is going to present its research at a 2015 Lifestyle meeting advocating for these same recommendations as a pro-vegetarian diet has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
The research participants consisted of 451,256 Europeans who were part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, which began in 1992. The participants were free of chronic disease at the start of the study, between the ages of 35 to 70 years and were followed for 12 years on average. Statistical data was collected on their height, weight, food consumption by self-reported food frequency questionnaires, lifestyle and physical activity habits. Causes, and dates of death were obtained from record linkages with boards of health, and active follow-up of participants.
The researchers scored participants on a continuum based on the types of foods they ate. Points were given for eating foods from seven plant food groups: vegetables, fruit, beans, cereals, potatoes, nuts, and olive oil. Points were subtracted for five animal food groups: meats, animal fats, eggs, fish, and other seafood or dairy products.
Participants were classified from the least pro-vegetarian to the most. The results were adjusted for age at the start of the study, gender, daily calories, body mass index, smoking status, physical activity, education, alcohol intake and study center. The results reflect that people who ate the most pro-vegetarian style diets had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, compared to those who were the least pro-vegetarian.
A pro-vegetarian diet doesn’t make absolute recommendations about specific nutrients. It focuses on increasing the proportion of plant based foods relative to animal-based foods, which results in an improved nutritionally balance diet,” said Camille Lassale, Ph.D., lead author and an epidemiologist at Imperial College London’s School of Public 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,” said Lassale.