A recent study examined the link between the amount and quality of plant-based foods and heart health over a 10-year period.
The majority of dietary studies simply refer to plant-based diets as “vegetarian” or “low in meat,” therefore treating all plant meals equally. This study was unique in that it assessed both the type and quantity of plant-based foods consumed.
The ATTICA research randomly recruited persons residing in Athens in 2001 and 2002 who did not have cardiovascular disease or other chronic diseases. The current study analysed 146 obese individuals who had normal blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood sugar levels. The diet was examined using a questionnaire that inquired about the participant’s regular eating habits during the preceding year. It included a list of 156 foods and beverages with images and portion sizes that are commonly consumed in Greece.
Within a decade, over half of these obese participants developed high blood pressure, elevated blood lipid levels, and blood sugar – a dangerous combination for heart health.
Men who ate more plant-based foods had a lower risk of experiencing this deterioration in health status. In women, a tendency was also found, but it was not statistically significant.
In terms of the nutritional value of plant-based foods, healthier selections were associated with normal blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood sugar. Consuming unhealthy plant-based diets, on the other hand, was connected with the development of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and hyperglycemia. These associations were more robust in women than in males.
Healthy plant-based items included entire grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and tea/coffee.
“Eating less meat is beneficial for heart health, particularly when it is replaced with nutritious plant foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil,” said the study author.
Juices, sweetened beverages, refined cereals, potatoes, and all types of sweets were considered unhealthy plant-based items (e.g. chocolate, Greek traditional desserts, etc.).
The study author cautioned that because the study was conducted on obese adults, the findings should not be generalised to other weight categories.
Image Credit: GEtty