Eating more nutritious, plant-based foods is heart-healthy at any age, according to a long-term study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
A 30-year follow-up study recorded that plant-based diet have a lower risk of heart disease in middle age and a separate study with a 15-year follow-up indicated that the ‘Portfolio Diet,’ which includes more plant-based foods that have been known to decrease cholesterol, is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women.
One of the studies, titled “A Plant-Centered Diet and Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease during Young to Middle Adulthood,” by Dr. Yuni Choi, a researcher in the division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis evaluated whether long-term consumption of a plant-centered diet and a shift toward a plant-centered diet starting in young adulthood is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in midlife.
Choi and colleagues examined diet and the occurrence of heart disease in 4,946 adults aged 18 to 30 years enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study who were free of cardiovascular disease at that time.
A total of 2,509 Black adults and 2,437 white adults (54.9 percent women overall) took part in the study, which was further broken down by educational level (equivalent to more than high school vs. high school or less). From 1987-88 to 2015-16, participants received eight follow-up tests that included lab testing, physical measurements, medical histories, and a lifestyle assessment.
The food groups were classified into beneficial foods (such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains); adverse foods (such as fried potatoes, high-fat red meat, salty snacks, pastries and soft drinks); and neutral foods (such as potatoes, refined grains, lean meats and shellfish) based on their known association with cardiovascular disease.
Participants with higher scores ate a variety of healthy foods, while those with lower scores ate more unhealthy foods. In general, higher numbers indicated a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet.
In another study, “Relationship Between a Plant-Based Dietary Portfolio and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Findings from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Prospective Cohort Study,” researchers, in collaboration with WHI investigators led by Dr. Simin Liu, M.D., Ph.D., at Brown University, evaluated whether or not diets that included a dietary portfolio of plant-based foods for lowering “bad” cholesterol levels known as the “Portfolio Diet” were associated with fewer cardiovascular disease events in a large group of postmenopausal women.
The “Portfolio Diet” includes nuts, soy, beans or tofu, viscous soluble fiber from oats, barley, ladies finger, eggplant, oranges, apples and berries, and reduced consumption of saturated fats and dietary cholesterol.
The study involved 123,330 women in the US who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term study looking at risk factors, prevention and early detection of severe health issues in postmenopausal women.
Women with the closest alignment were 11 percent less likely to acquire any type of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), 14 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease, and 17 percent less likely to develop heart failure than women who followed the Portfolio Diet less frequently. Further, there was no association between following the Portfolio Diet more closely and the occurrence of stroke or atrial fibrillation.