Plant-Based Diets Good For The Heart? Here Is More Evidence

Heart symbol. Vegetables diet concept. Food photography of heart made from different vegetables on white wooden table. High resolution product.

Plants may be good for your heart. Not political plants, which can be bad if you are the victim of such a scheme, but fruits and vegetables in your diet. An analysis just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association did “produce” more evidence that plant-based diets are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lettuce takes a closer look at this latest analysis conducted by a team that included Hyunju Kim, Laura E. Caulfield, Vanessa Garcia‐Larsen, Josef Coresh, and Casey M. Rebholz from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) and Lyn M. Steffen from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. They analyzed a salad of data on 12,168 men and women who had participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Each study participant had been in the 45 to 64 years age range when first enrolled in the study (1987-1989) and was from one of four US communities: Washington County, MD, Forsyth County, NC, Minneapolis, MN, or Jackson, MS. The participants had multiple follow-up visits after being enrolled and were followed as late as 2017.

Since the ARIC study had not specifically asked if participants had followed a “plant‐based diet,” the research team led by Rebholz, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the JHSPH, used the answers from the food and beverage frequency questionnaire to calculate several different measures of plant-based diets. These measures included the overall plant‐based diet index (PDI), the healthy plant‐based diet index (hPDI), the less healthy (unhealthy) plant‐based diet index (uPDI), and the pro-vegetarian diet index.

Calculating several different indices helped get a better sense of how healthy the plants being consumed were. After all, not all plant-based foods are healthy. French fries and ketchup ain’t quite the same thing as kale. For each of these indices, a lower score meant more animal-based food in the diet. A higher score meant that the person consumed more plants.

Furthermore, the analysis couldn’t separate out everything else that the participants may have been doing to affect their cardiovascular risk. For example, people who eat more plant-based diets could also be paying closer attention to their health and the healthiness of their diets in general such as consuming less salt, added sugar, and processed foods. It may be a stereotype, but the all-buffalo wing diet guy may not be the most likely person to watch his sodium intake or the amount of time that he spends on the couch.

Read more at Forbes