7 Simple Reasons Why Vegetarians Have A Healthier Heart Than You! Author: Matt Friedman

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USDA ARS Image Gallery. Agricultural Research Service. https://data.nal.usda.gov/dataset/usda-ars-image-gallery

 

I know we do not come into this world with great ambitions of one day having a restricting diet, but what DO we know as infants? The meat industry is under close scrutiny after making many unwanted appearances in recent films. More and more people are adopting a plant-based diet as a way of being more supportive of the environment and animal welfare. What people don’t realize is that a plant-based diet happens to align perfectly with the current recommendations of the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA has created a list called “Life’s Simple 7”: Seven ways to significantly lower your risk of heart disease and improve your health.1 In this week’s post I will pick the big, beautiful brains of recent literature, and outline the seven beneficial, healthy heart markers inherent in a plant-based vegetarian, or vegan diet.

 Rule #1: BE ACTIVE

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Courtesy of CDC/Amanda Mills

Staying active is one of the most important things a person can do to help curb obesity, lower your chances of heart disease and live healthy.1

Studies have shown that physical activity is often higher within the vegetarian population, and a higher percentage of vegetarians were found to be high exercisers.2,3

Rule #2: KEEP YOUR CHOLESTEROL DOWN

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Courtesy of CDC/Amanda Mills

 

High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. When you control your cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages.1

In a study following individuals assigned to either a low-fat vegan diet or a diet following the 2003 American Diabetes Association guidelines, total cholesterol decreased by 20.4 mg/dL in the vegan group, and 6.8 mg/dL in the ADA group.4

Rule #3: EAT WELL

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A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting cardiovascular disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life!1

The AHA suggests that one should follow an overall healthy dietary pattern that emphasizes: a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils.5

The American Dietetic Association states: “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. The results of an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease.”6

This information suggests that a plant-based diet would naturally meet the majority of the AHA suggestions, without relying on animal sources

Rule #4: KEEP YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE DOWN

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Courtesy of CDC/Amanda Mills

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When your blood pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys, which keeps you healthier longer.1

Non-meat eaters, especially vegans, have a lower prevalence of hypertension and lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures than meat eaters, largely because of differences in body mass index.7

Rule #5: MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BODY WEIGHT

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Courtesy of CDC/Amanda Mills

When you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. You give yourself the gift of active living, you lower your blood pressure and you help yourself feel better, too.1

A vegan diet was associated with significantly greater weight loss than the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) diet at 1 and 2 years.8 Mean BMI was lowest in vegans (23.6 kg/m2) and incrementally higher in lacto-ovo vegetarians (25.7 kg/m2), pesco-vegetarians (26.3 kg/m2), semi-vegetarians (27.3 kg/m2), and non-vegetarians (28.8 kg/m2).9 The 5-unit BMI difference between vegans and non-vegetarians indicates a substantial potential of vegetarianism to protect against obesity.9

Rule #6: KEEP YOUR BLOOD SUGAR IN A HEALTHY RANGE

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Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies use for energy. Over time, high levels of blood sugar can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.1

Studies support a greater decrease in Hb A1c for a vegan diet, as well as an association with an increase in insulin sensitivity.10

Rule #7: NO SMOKING!

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Courtesy of CDC/Deborah Cartagena

Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.1

In previous studies, the proportion of smokers was lower among the vegetarians than the non-vegetarians.11 These statements were later supported by a pivotal German vegan study. Only 3% of the participants smoked, whereas about 45.5% of the men and 37.5% of the women smoked in the German average population.12

STILL NOT CONVINCED?

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Courtesy of (http://www.cancer.gov), Bill Branson (photographer)

Many people have a hard time buying that a vegan diet is as sustainable as a typical American diet. The three most common concerns I see are:

THERE’S NOT ENOUGH PROTEIN

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Plant protein can meet protein requirements when a variety of plant foods is consumed and energy needs are met. Research indicates that an assortment of plant foods eaten over the course of a day can provide all essential amino acids and ensure adequate nitrogen retention and use in healthy adults; thus, complementary proteins do not need to be consumed at the same meal.6

THERE’S NOT ENOUGH VITAMIN B-12

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Vegetarian diets, particularly vegan diets, typically result in lower than recommended serum levels of vitamin B-12.13

The ADA acknowledges this and notes that supplements and fortified products are available to assist vegetarians in meeting their daily requirement of vitamin B-12, and other key nutrients.6

IT’S WAY TOO EXPENSIVE!

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Researchers from The Miriam Hospital and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank compared the costs of two seven-day meal plans: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) My Plate meal plan, which includes meat, and a plant-based olive oil meal plan. They also determined serving sizes for vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

The USDA’s My Plate seven-day meal plan ended up costing $53.11 each week while the plant-based olive oil meal plan came out to $38.75. The vegetarian meal plan also offered around 25 more servings of vegetables, eight more servings of fruit, and 14 more servings of whole grains. By shopping economically, people adhering to a vegetarian diet can save $746.46 a year compared to meat-eaters.14,15

RECAP

It has been determined experimentally that there exists a positive correlation between an unhealthy diet and heart disease.16 When surveying the top ten causes of death, both nationally (USA) and globally, it has been determined that ischemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15 million deaths in 2015. These diseases have remained the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years.17 Furthermore, according to the Centers for Disease Control, since 1926, Diseases of the Heart have been the number one killer in the United States.18

CONCLUSION

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Now that you understand the severity of heart disease, and have seen the data showing that a plant-based diet meets all of Life’s Simple 7, it is time that you dust off your vegetables, open a new tab on your web browser, and search for vegetarian meal plans.

 

References

  1. My Life check – life’s simple 7. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/My-Life-Check—Lifes-Simple-7_UCM_471453_Article.jsp. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  2. Waldmann A, Koschizke JW, Leitzmann C, Hahn A. European journal of clinical nutrition – abstract of article: Dietary intakes and lifestyle factors of a vegan population in Germany: Results from the German Vegan study.European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;57(8):947–955. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601629. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v57/n8/full/1601629a.html. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  3. Reeves G, Fraser GE, Thorogood M, et al. Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: Detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999;70(3):516–524.
  4. Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ, et al. A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: A randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. May 2009:26736. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736H. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2009/04/01/ajcn.2009.26736H.full.pdf+html. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  5. The American heart association’s diet and lifestyle recommendations. https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/The-American-Heart-Associations-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp?appName=MobileApp. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  6. http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(09)00700-7/pdf. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  7. https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/S1368980002000873. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  8. Turner-McGrievy GM, Barnard ND, Scialli AR. A Two-Year Randomized weight loss trial comparing a Vegan diet to a more moderate low-fat Diet*.Obesity. 2007;15(9):2276–2281. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.270.
  9. Tonstad S, Butler T, Yan R, Fraser GE, stonstad. Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes.Original Research. 2009;32(5):791–796. doi:10.2337/dc08-1886. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/32/5/791.short. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  10. Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ, et al. A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: A randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial1234. 2009;89(5). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2677007/. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  11. Reeves G, Fraser GE, Thorogood M, et al. Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: Detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999;70(3):516–524. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/516s.full. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  12. Waldmann A, Koschizke JW, Leitzmann C, Hahn A. European journal of clinical nutrition – abstract of article: Dietary intakes and lifestyle factors of a vegan population in Germany: Results from the German Vegan study.European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;57(8):947–955. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601629. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v57/n8/full/1601629a.html. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  13. Crane MG, Sample C, Patchett S, Register UD. Vitamin B 12 studies in Toal vegetarians (Vegans).Journal of Nutritional Medicine. 1994;4(4):419–430. doi:10.3109/13590849409003591.
  14. Flynn MM, Schiff AR. Economical healthy diets (2012): Including lean animal protein costs more than using extra virgin Olive Oil.Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2015;10(4):467–482. doi:10.1080/19320248.2015.1045675.
  15. Caba J. How much money do vegetarians save from not eating meat?The Grapevine. October 9, 2015. http://www.medicaldaily.com/vegetarian-diet-can-save-you-around-750-each-year-when-compared-meat-eating-diet-356670. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  16. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/133/2/187. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  17. The top 10 causes of death. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/. Accessed February 2, 2017.
  18. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/lead1900_98.pdf. Accessed February 2, 2017.

 

 

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