Eat your vegetables, help your heart: How plant-based diets can boost cardiovascular health

Limiting meat consumption and embracing a more plant-based diet can lead to a longer, healthier life, according to a new editorial published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

The analysis, written by researchers from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, highlights several proven benefits associated with a plant-based diet. The risk of coronary heart disease events drops by approximately 40%, for example, and the risk of cerebral vascular disease events drops by 29%. It can also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome by roughly 50%.

The authors also associated adopting a plant-based diet with delaying the aging process and increasing one’s life expectancy.

“The global population of adults 60 years old or older is expected to double from 841 million to 2 billion by 2050, presenting clear challenges for our health care system,” study author Hana Kahleova, MD, PhD, director of clinical research for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said in a statement. “Fortunately, simple diet changes can go a long way in helping populations lead longer, healthier lives.” 

The full editorial is available here.

In addition, a separate team of researchers has shared new findings related to adopting a plant-based diet. According to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine, one that tracked more than 237,000 men and 179,000 women, eating more plant-based protein is “significantly associated” with improved overall mortality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality.

For example, the authors noted, substituting egg protein with plant protein can lead to a 24% lower risk of overall mortality among men and a 21% lower risk among women. When substituting red meat protein with plant protein, the decreases are 13% among men and 15% among women.

“Considerable evidence has accumulated supporting a beneficial role for plant-based diets in the prevention of cardiovascular disease,” wrote lead author Jiaqi Huang, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health, and colleagues. “Dietary plant protein has been associated with reduced CVD risk factors, including lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, improved lipid and lipoprotein profiles, and decreased circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1.”