How healthy and unhealthy plant-based diets could affect your heart disease risk

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Scientists from Harvard University found that eating healthy plant-based diets is linked to a lower heart disease risk, while eating an unhealthy plant-based diet may harm heart health.

Heart disease is a catch-all phrase for a variety of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and how it works.

Coronary heart disease is a type of heart disease where the arteries of the heart cannot deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. It is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Plant-based diets are recommended for preventing coronary heart disease. However, not all plant foods are healthy and beneficial for heart health.

In the current study, researchers aimed to examine associations between plant-based diet indices and heart disease risk.

They analyzed data from 73,710 women in the Nurses’ Health Study (1984 to 2012), 92,329 women in Nurses’ Health Study 2 (1991 to 2013), and 43,259 men in Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986 to 2012).

All of the people were free of chronic diseases before the research.

The team created a healthful plant-based diet index, where healthy plant foods (whole grains, fruits/vegetables, nuts/legumes, oils, tea/coffee) received positive scores, whereas less-healthy plant foods (juices/sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes/fries, sweets) and animal foods received reverse scores.

To create an unhealthful plant-based diet index, researchers gave positive scores to less-healthy plant foods and reverse scores to animal and healthy plant foods.

The researchers found 8,631 heart disease cases during the follow-up period.

Generally, the more plant-based foods people ate, the lower their heart disease risk. The benefit was stronger for healthy plant-based diets.

On the contrary, unhealthy plant-based foods were linked to lower heart disease risk.

Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that a higher intake of a diet rich in healthier plant foods is linked to much lower heart disease risk, whereas a plant-based diet high in less-healthy plant foods is linked to higher heart disease risk.

The research is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and was conducted by Ambika Satija et al.

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