Eating more plants and less meat has been tied to better heart health and lower risk of death, according to a new study.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggest that reducing the number of meat people consume leads to better heart health.
Eating less meat
Adhering to a plant-based diet or a diet that includes more plant foods than animal foods could lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 16% and lower risk of early death by 25%.
A plant-based diet consists mostly or entirely of foods derived from plants, including vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, and with few or no animal products.
“Plant-based diets emphasize higher intakes of plant foods and lower intakes of animal foods. Foods derived from plants include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes,” said Casey Rebholz, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and senior author of the study.
“Animal foods include meat, eggs, dairy, and fish or seafood,” she added. “We did not describe plant-based diets in this research on the grounds of full exclusion from the diet of animal food … but rather ranked people according to their frequent intake of these foods.”
The study examined the diets of over 12,168 middle-aged adults in the United States, which came from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study.
The participants were followed up from 1987 through 2016 and did not have cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study.
The researchers examined the participants’ usual diet and their heart health later in life, including whether they were diagnosed with a stroke, heart failure or other heart-disease related conditions.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that the adults who adhered to diets with mostly plant-based foods, compared with those who had the lowest adherence, had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease; about 32% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease; and 18% to 25% lower risk of early death from any cause.
The study, however, had some limitations, including the information of food intake, were based on people self-reporting their eating habits, which poses a risk of measurement error.
More research is needed to determine if a causal relationship exists, and to determine how the modern food supply might influence outcomes, as the data in the study came from years’ past.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease, and other conditions, according to the World Health Organization.
CVD are the number one cause of death globally, more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.
Four out of five diseases deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes.