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Vegetarian diet linked to lower risk for ischemic heart disease

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By Jimmy Downs

Sunday March 31, 2013 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that men and women eating a vegetarian diet can reduce their risk for ischemic heart disease, compared with those who do not eat a vegetarian diet.

The study shows that those who followed a vegetarian diet were 32 percent less likely to develop ischemic heart disease than those who did not follow this diet.

In addition, the study also shows that vegetarians had a lower body mass index, lower non-HDL cholesterol and systolic blood pressure among other things.

About the study

The study was intended to examine the association if a vegetarian diet with incidence of nonfatal and fatal ischemic heart disease in a population in the UK.
 For the study, authors Francesca L Crowe from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford in Oxford, United Kingdom and colleagues analysed data from 44,561 men and women in England and Scotland enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)–Oxford study which followed participants for an average 11.6 years.

Of the participants, 34 percent ate a vegetarian diet at baseline or at the start of the study and in addition to cases of 1235 ischemic disease including 169 deaths from the disease, 1519 controls were available for the measurement of serum lipids and blood pressure. 

It was found that compared with nonvegetarians, the body mass index, non-high density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration and systolic blood pressure were found 1.2 kg/m2, 0.45 mmol/L and 3.3 mmHg lower in vegetarians, respectively, compared with nonvegetarians.

These associations were only slightly reduced after adjustment for body mass index and remained unchanged after adjustment for sex, age, BMI, smoking status, or ischemic heart disease risk factors.

The researchers concluded "Consuming a vegetarian diet was associated with lower IHD risk, a finding that is probably mediated by differences in non-HDL cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure."

Take-home message

It has been known for long that eating a vegetarian diet or even better a vegan diet (without meat, dairy products and eggs) can prevent heart disease such as coronary heart disease.  According to Dr. T Colin Campbell, a distinguished nutrition professor at Cornell University, a plant-based diet is associated with lower risk for all types of Western diseases including cardiovascular disease including  heart disease and stroke, cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and liver cancer, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and obesity.

Those who want to know the benefits of a plant-based diet if they can should talk to President Clinton who started to follow a vegetarian diet (only eating some fish and none of other meat) a few years ago and he feels much better now than ever before.   President Clinton followed the advice from Dr. Dean Ornish who knows that a plant-based diet can not only prevent heart disease, but also can reverse or at least stop progression of the disease.

One thing to remember: Vegetarian diet followers need to take vitamin B12 supplements because this vitamin is not found in plant foods.  All other nutrients can be found much richer or only in plant-foods.

Photo credit: wikipedia.org

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