The leading cause of death globally in 2021 was cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to the WHO, with four in five CVD deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
In a recent study published in JAMA Network Open, a monthly open-access medical journal published by the American Medical Association (AMA) covering all aspects of the biomedical sciences, researchers suggested that a plant-based diet was far more beneficial for heart health, compared to an omnivorous dietary plan.
The data published in the study was based on 22 sets of identical twins – whose average age was 40- with one twin following a vegan diet and the other a meat-based diet. Researchers planned out a balanced and heart-healthy diet, making sure the participants’ cholesterol levels were constantly monitored.
In the clinical trial, half of the subjects adhered to a diet including meat and plant-based foods, while the other half consumed only plant-based foods, excluding meat, eggs, dairy, and other animal products.
At the study’s outset, the average initial LDL cholesterol level (commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol) was 110.7 mg/dL for the vegan diet group and 118.5 mg/dL for the other group. After eight weeks, the average LDL cholesterol levels decreased to approximately 96 mg/dL for those following the vegan diet and 116 mg/dL for the others.
Beyond a reduction in cholesterol, those following the vegan plan saw a 20% decrease in insulin, a risk factor for the development of diabetes. An interesting finding is that both groups showed weight loss, with slightly higher weight loss observed in the vegan group.
Researchers attribute the protective effects of the vegan diet to its richness in legumes or beans, known for their high fiber content, which is associated with cardiovascular benefits. Additionally, vegan diets avoid saturated animal fats, known to be detrimental to cardiovascular health.
Researchers chose to do a comparative study on identical twins to rule out the possibility of whether an individual’s genes or their environment, including diet, had a greater impact on observed changes.