BALTIMORE — Diets emphasizing higher intakes of healthy plant foods were associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, death from cardiovascular disease and death from all causes in a study that appeared online Aug. 7 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The researchers examined data from 12,168 adults who were 45 to 64 at baseline in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. The adults were followed from 1987 through 2016. People in the highest quintile of adhering to plant-based diets had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease when compared to people in the lowest quintile. The percentages were 31% to 32% lower risk for cardiovascular disease mortality and 18% to 25% lower risk for all-cause mortality. A total of 5,436 participants died during the study, which included 1,565 who died from cardiovascular disease.
Researchers looked at four types of diets: an overall plant-based diet, a diet based primarily on healthy plants like green vegetables, a vegetarian diet and a diet that included more unhealthy plant-based meals based on starches and processed foods. People in the highest quintile of adhering to an overall plant-based diet, a healthy plant-based diet or a vegetarian diet on average consumed 4.1 to 4.8 servings of fruit and vegetables per day and 0.8 to 0.9 servings of red and processed meat per day. People in the highest quintile for an unhealthy plant-based diet on average consumed 2.3 servings of fruit and vegetables per day and 1.2 servings of red and processed meat per day.
“Dietary patterns that are relatively higher in plant foods and relatively lower in animal foods may confer benefits for cardiovascular health,” the researchers concluded. “Considering the adverse outcomes associated with refined carbohydrate consumption, future research should continue to explore if the quality of plant foods (either healthy plant foods or less healthy plant foods) within the framework of plant-based diets is associated with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in a general population.”
The researchers were from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research in Baltimore, and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis.
The study may be found here.