(HealthDay): Want to eat to a healthier heart?
Diets rich in plant-based foods can exceed low-fat diets to reduce risk color disease and stroke, according to a new study.
Saturated fats, which are found to a large extent animal products, has long been seen as the enemy of the heart, as it can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol.
In the new study, which tracked more than 5,100 Americans, researchers found that people on diets low in saturated fat actually had better LDL levels.
But that didn’t translate into a lower risk of heart disease or stroke, according to the study.
On the other hand, people who consumed a lot of plant foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and nuts) had a lower risk of cardiovascular problems.
Experts said the findings don’t mean LDL cholesterol or saturated fats don’t matter. People who eat a lot of plant foods also tend to be low in LDL and often have a diet that is quite low in saturated fats as it limits meat and dairy products.
But focusing on saturated fats can “lose many aspects diet quality, ”said study author Yuni Choi, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota.
Instead, he said, a more “holistic” approach to eating is likely to be better for heart health.
Choi will present the results at the annual meeting of the American Nutrition Society, which will be held online this week. Studies published in meetings are generally considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The results come from a long-term study on heart health that began recruiting young adults from the U.S. in the 1980s. For 32 years, 135 participants developed coronary heart disease, where “plaques” build up in the arteries and slow down blood flow to the heart. Another 92 suffered a stroke.
Choi and colleagues assessed the dietary backgrounds of all study participants, assigning them “scores” based on the number of plant foods and the amount of saturated fats they normally ate.
In general, both vegetable enthusiasts and those shunning saturated fats had lower LDL cholesterol. But only plant-rich diets were associated with lower risks of heart disease and stroke.
For each incremental increase in these scores, the risk of heart disease decreased by 19%, on average. Meanwhile, the risk of stroke decreased by 29%.
This was done taking into account factors such as smoking, body weight, and income and education levels.
In what may be good news for burger lovers, “herbal” doesn’t have to mean becoming a vegetarian or vegan.
Try to fill 70% to 80% of your plate with vegetables, beans, whole grains and the like, said senior researcher David Jacobs, a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota.
It’s important to eat these foods “close to the way they are grown,” Jacobs said, rather than buying heavily processed versions. Variety is also key.
“You want to have a beautiful, colorful dish,” Jacobs said.
Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist who is not involved in the study, agreed that a “predominantly vegetable” diet is the way to go for heart health.
“Animal products aren’t meant to be part of every meal,” said Freeman, who heads cardiovascular prevention and welfare at National Jewish Health in Denver.
Instead, it encourages patients to consume a wide range of plant foods, in its “natural form.”
“Eat avocado instead of avocado oil,” Freeman said.
He warned that the new study does not mean that saturated fats do not make sense. And if people focus on building a plant-centered diet, Freeman said, they’ll probably consume fairly low amounts of fat.
Why are plant-rich diets so heart-friendly? Researchers said it is not a magic ingredient.
These diets are usually high in fiber, unsaturated fats and a lot of vitamins and minerals, but according to Jacobs the explanation may go beyond these nutrients.
Unlike animals, he noted, plants have a lot of self-generated chemicals that protect them from the environment. And these so-called bioactive compounds can benefit humans who eat them.
Choi said researchers also want to study the ways in which different diets affect the disease intestinal microbiome—The vast collection of bacteria and other microbes that inhabit the intestine and perform numerous vital functions.
He said it is possible that plant-based diets partly benefit the heart through effects on the intestinal microbiome.
Copyright © 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Citation: “Plant-based” or low-fat diet: What’s best for your heart? (2021, June 9), retrieved June 9, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-plant-based-low-fat-diet-heart.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair treatment for the purposes of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.