A vegan diet improves cardiovascular health in just eight weeks. With the help of vegan foods, LDL cholesterol, insulin and body weight can be significantly improved, all of which are important factors for cardiovascular health.
A new study involving experts from Stanford University compared the impact of a healthy vegan diet versus a healthy omnivorous diet on cardiometabolic health during an eight-week intervention period. The results are published in the specialist journal “JAMA Network Open”.
What does meat abstinence do?
Previous studies have suggested that eating less meat is associated with improved cardiovascular health. However, these studies are often limited by various factors such as genetic differences, upbringing and lifestyle factors.
Because the current study only examined twins who grew up in the same households and had similar lifestyles, some normally confounding factors could be limited, including genetics, the team emphasizes.
The research involved a total of 22 pairs of identical twins who did not suffer from any cardiovascular diseases at the start of the study. From each pair of twins, one twin was assigned to a vegan or omnivorous diet.
How did the participants eat?
Both diets were rich in vegetables, legumes, fruit and whole grain products and did not contain any sugar or refined starch.
While the omnivorous diet included chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, dairy products and other animal foods, the vegan diet was purely plant-based and free of meat and animal products such as eggs or milk.
During the first four weeks of the study, participants were provided with a total of 21 meals per week. The participants then had to prepare their own meals. They were also able to have questions about nutrition answered by nutritional advice experts.
All participants kept a log of what foods they ate. Of the 22 participants on a vegan diet, 21 stuck to this diet until the end of the study. According to study author Professor Christopher Gardner, this shows that it is possible to learn how to prepare vegan meals in just four weeks.
Effects of a vegan diet
Participants who followed a vegan diet showed significantly lower values for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, insulin and body weight. All of these factors are associated with improved cardiovascular health, the experts report.
According to the researchers, participants in the vegan group had an average baseline level of LDL cholesterol of 110.7 mg/dL, whereas the baseline level in the group with animal foods was 118.5 mg/dL.
Significant reduction in LDL cholesterol
At the end of the study, the baseline level of LDL cholesterol in vegan participants even fell to 95.5 mg/dL and in omnivorous participants to 116.1 mg/dL. The experts add that the optimal baseline level of LDL cholesterol is below 100 mg/dL.
The researchers suspect that people with elevated baseline levels of LDL cholesterol could achieve even greater benefits than was the case with the healthy participants in the study.
Weight loss and healthier insulin levels
According to the research team, participants who followed a vegan diet also had fasting insulin levels that were reduced by around 20 percent, and high insulin levels increased the risk of developing diabetes.
Another advantage of the vegan diet was that those who consumed it lost an average of 4.2 kg more weight than participants in the other group, the experts continued.
These results show that most of us would benefit from a more plant-based diet, explains Professor Gardner in a press release.
In general, it is beneficial to eat more plant-based foods, even if you are not strictly vegan. “A vegan diet can provide additional benefits such as: B. the increase of intestinal bacteria and the reduction of telomere loss, which slows down the aging of the body,” adds the doctor. (as)