A new study published the Journal of the American Heart Association appears to confirm that eating more plant-based foods and fewer animal products may result in a healthier heart and cardiovascular system. The researchers found that eating more vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains and fewer meat products correlated with a much lower risk of dying of a heart attack or other serious cardiovascular event. Casey M. Rebholz, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, is the lead author of the new study.
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death globally. The new study is one of the first studies to examine the association of plant-based diets and heart health in the general population. Most previous research focused on plant-based diets in smaller populations, such as vegetarians.
For the new study, the researchers reviewed data from 12,168 middle aged people who had enrolled in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The adults did not have cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. The participants were followed from 1987 to 2016, with the people self-reporting their eating habits.
The researchers categorized the participants’ diet into four categories based on the amount of plant-based and animal-based foods they consumed. The researchers then the association between plant-based diet scores and cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all-cause mortality using hazard ratios. The results showed that the participants who had the highest intake of plant-based foods were 16 percent less likely to have a cardiovascular condition and a 32 percent lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular condition than adults who consumed the smallest amount of plant-based foods.
Previous studies have also shown that consuming a plant-based diet is associated with better heart health and lower risk of death. The American Heart Association recommends eating a mostly plant-based diet that is rich in nutrition and low in added sugars, salt, cholesterol, and fats.