A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association concluded that people who consumed a mostly plant-based diet were less likely to develop heart disease and to die from it than those who ate a diet rich in meat and refined carbohydrates.
The study concluded that not all vegetarian and plant-based diets were equally beneficial. Greater benefits were observed in participants who adhered to healthier versions of vegetarian and plant-based diets although even a considerably unhealthy plant-based diet went some way to reducing the risk of heart disease and death.
Although our study did not have data on olive oil intake, based on prior literature, we believe that incorporation of healthy plant fats, such as olive oil, in an overall plant-based diet may provide benefits for cardiovascular health.
Four different types of diets were assessed during the study. These were an overall plant-based diet, one based primarily on healthy plants such as green vegetables, an entirely vegetarian diet and a fourth diet which included more unhealthy plant-based meals including starches such as potatoes and processed foods.
Results of the study indicated that diets richer in animal products and refined carbohydrates increased the risk of death from heart disease by up to 32 percent and participants who consumed more animal produce and refined carbs were 18 percent to 25 percent more likely to die of all causes than those who adhered most closely to a plant-based or vegetarian diet.
See more: Plant-Based Diet News
The research team found that participants who ate the most plant-based foods were 16 percent less likely to develop heart failure or have a non-fatal heart attack or stroke than those who ate the least plants.
“Our results provide further evidence of reasons for individuals to follow diets relatively higher in plant foods and relatively lower in animal foods (particularly red and processed meats),” Hyunju Kim, lead author and research fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Olive Oil Times. “Specifically, consuming healthy plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts) appears to be important for heart health.”
“In this general U.S. population, higher adherence to diets higher in plant foods and lower in animal foods was associated with a lower risk of incident cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality and all-cause mortality,” she added.
Kim also endorsed the Mediterranean diet saying, “we believe that the Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet. Plant-based diets and Mediterranean diets are similar in that they emphasize the intake of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts), and limit the intake of red and processed meats.”
Although olive oil intake was not assessed during the study Kim commented on its health benefits saying, “previous studies which included olive oil as a healthy plant food in an overall plant-based diet or a vegetarian diet found a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality.”
“Olive oil is an important component of the Mediterranean diet, and high olive oil intake has been associated to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease,” she added. “Although our study did not have data on olive oil intake, based on prior literature, we believe that incorporation of healthy plant fats, such as olive oil, in an overall plant-based diet may provide benefits for cardiovascular health.”
The study observed the eating habits of 12,168 people aged between 45 and 64 years old; none of whom had heart disease at the start of the study. During the 30 year study period 5,436 participants died with 1,565 of these deaths occurring as a result of cardiovascular disease.
Participants who followed one of the study’s three healthier diets consumed an average of 4.1 to 4.8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and ate less than one serving of red or processed meat.
People who adhered most closely to the unhealthy plant-based diet consumed less fruit and vegetables with a daily average of 2.3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and 1.2 servings of red or processed meat.
“Plant-based diets seem to be rising in popularity, and our study provides more evidence suggesting that consuming a plant-based diet can be good for your heart health,” Casey Rebholz, a co-author and a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore told Reuters,
Earlier this year the Mediterranean diet was ranked as the “Best Plant-Based Diet” and hailed as the “Best Diet Overall” by the U.S. News and World Report, which took various factors into account including; nutritional value, safety and potential to prevent cardiovascular disease.