The question of whether eating meat affects heart health is not new, but the latest findings may have steak fans reaching out to tofu. Analysis of research published in the European Heart Journal on Thursday found that vegetarian and vegan diets are linked to lowering cholesterol.
Study authors say the results show that plant-based diets can play a significant role in narrowing blocked arteries, thereby lowering the risk of serious heart conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.
Scientists examined 30 randomized trials with a total of 2,372 participants between 1982 and 2022. Positive results were seen in people of different ages, weights, ethnicities and health status.
While this study doesn’t claim that eating meat is a direct cause of heart disease, those at high risk might consider switching to plant-based proteins like legumes, nuts and tofu — in place of processed bacon, unprocessed beef and even poultry. products like chicken.
To reach conclusions, the scientists examined randomized trials that quantified the effect of vegetarian or vegan diets versus omnivorous diets – which include meat and dairy products – on levels of all types of cholesterol. These include low-density or bad cholesterol (LDL), triglycerides – a type of fat in the blood – and apoliprotein B (apoB) which transports fat and cholesterol in the blood.
Although previous meta-analyses have investigated this, none have addressed the impact of continent, age, body mass index and health status on cholesterol levels.
Participants in all studies were randomized to either follow a vegetarian or vegan diet or continue with an omnivore diet. Diet time ranged from ten days to five years, with an average of 29 weeks.
Compared to people following an omnivorous diet, those following a plant-based diet experienced an average reduction in total cholesterol levels of seven percent, a 10 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol levels, and a 14 percent reduction in percent in apoB levels.
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Study author Professor Ruth Frikke-Schmidt said: “If people start eating vegetarian or vegan diets from an early age, the potential for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease caused by blocked arteries is substantial.
“Importantly, we found similar results across continents, ages, different body mass index ranges, and among people in different health states.”
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