Vegetarian diet could help reduce heart disease risk

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

Scientists from Örebro University Hospital found that eating a vegetarian diet may help reduce heart disease risk.

What is ischemic heart disease? It’s the term given to heart problems caused by narrowed heart arteries. When arteries are narrowed, less blood and oxygen reach the heart muscle.

This is also called coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease. This can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

Previous research has found that a vegetarian diet may reduce future heart risk in patients with ischemic heart disease.

A vegetarian diet focuses on fruits and vegetables, dried beans, whole grains, seeds, and nuts.

Vegetarians miss out on lots of foods. No grilled burgers or franks at picnics. No holiday turkey or fries cooked in animal fat. Strict vegetarians may even forego honey made by bees.

But vegetarians also tend to miss out on major health problems that plague many Americans.

In the current study, researchers aimed to how a vegetarian diet, compared with a meat diet, could benefit people with heart disease.

They examined 27 people with ischemic heart disease. These people were assigned to a 4-week intervention of a vegetarian diet and a meat diet, separated by a 4-week washout period.

The team measured the difference in oxidized low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) between the two diets.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein), sometimes called “bad” cholesterol, makes up most of the body’s cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Oxidized LDL triggers inflammation leading to the formation of plaque in the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis.

Oxidized LDL may also play a role in increasing the number of triglycerides the body produces, as well as increasing the amount of fat deposited by the body.

The team also checked differences in heart and metabolic risk factors, quality of life, gut health, and so on.

The researchers found that the oxidized LDL-C, total cholesterol, LDL-C, and body weight were much lower with the vegetarian diet than with the meat diet.

Differences between vegetarian diet and meat diet were observed in the abundance of several gut microbe genera within the families Ruminococcaceae, Lachnospiraceae, and Akkermansiaceae.

Some metabolites in the blood, including l-carnitine, acylcarnitine metabolites, and phospholipids, differed in subjects consuming a vegetarian diet and a meat diet.

L-carnitine is a chemical that is made in the human brain, liver, and kidneys. It helps the body turn fat into energy. L-carnitine is important for heart and brain function, muscle movement, and many other body processes.

Certain acylcarnitines in the blood were higher in type 2 diabetes patients than in the non-type 2 diabetes population.

Phospholipids are a vital component of cell membranes, which separate the interior of cells from the outside environment and give cells structure.

Phospholipids are also needed to support the absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers also found the effect on oxidized LDL-C in response to the vegetarian diet was linked to gut microbiota composition dominated by several genera of Ruminococcaceae.

The researchers concluded that the vegetarian diet combined with medical therapy could reduce levels of oxidized LDL-C, improve heart and metabolic health, and alter the abundance of gut microbes and blood metabolites in people with ischemic heart disease.

These findings suggest that the composition of the gut microbiota may be related to the reduction of oxidized LDL-C found with the vegetarian diet.

The research is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and was conducted by Demir Djekic et al.

Copyright © 2022 Scientific Diet. All rights reserved.