Plant-based foods may help decrease the risk of heart disease-related deaths, according to a new report from the American Heart Association, but not all plant-based diets have the same effects on health.
The report shows that increasing consumption of certain plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, can decrease one's risk of heart disease. Consuming unhealthy plant-based foods like sugary beverages and refined grains had the opposite effect.
“Not all plant-based diets are equal," says Megu Y. Baden, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, "But boosting the intake of high-quality plant-based foods over time lowers the risk of death even among people who started off with poor-quality diets."
Data used in the study were collected from over 49,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and over 25,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Both groups had a mean age of 64 years, and the study is thus the first to examine “how positive or negative changes in diet may influence a person’s risk of dying, no matter where they started,” reports Vegconomist.
The research's promising link between a healthful plant-based diet and reduced heart disease risk did not carry over to cancer risk; no consistent evidence was found for an association between plant-based diet and cancer mortality. No participants had a history of heart disease or cancer before beginning the study.
This new study is in line with previous research on this topic, including one 2017 study from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto that found that swapping a meat-based meal for a plant-based alternative once a week could reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
Recent research has also found that choosing plant-based foods could reduce risk of diabetes, with one study finding that plant-based meals helped diabetics secrete more insulin, and another study published last year in Nutrients finding that a plant-based diet could reduce overweight people's risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
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