Plant-based vegan diet may be more effective than American Heart Association (AHA) diet in reducing cardiovascular risks in obese children, revealed Cleveland Clinic research. The study findings suggest that obese children who begin a low-fat, plant-based vegan diet may lower their risk of heart disease through improvements in their weight, blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.
The four-week study compared a plant-based vegan diet to the AHA diet in 28 obese children with high cholesterol between the ages of 9-18 years. One parent of each child also followed the diet plan.
Children on the plant-based diet consumed plants and whole grains, with limited avocado and nuts, no added fat, and no animal products and they experienced significant improvements in nine measure- BMI, systolic blood pressure, weight, mid-arm circumference, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and insulin, as well as two common markers of heart disease, myeloperoxidase and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. Study participants on the AHA diet consumed fruits, vegetables, whole grains and non-whole grains, limited sodium, low-fat dairy, selected plant oils, and lean meat and fish in moderation and these children experienced significant improvements in four measures- weight, waist circumference, mid-arm circumference and myeloperoxidase.
Researcher Michael Macknin said, "As the number of obese children with high cholesterol continues to grow, we need to have effective lifestyle modifications to help them reverse their risk factors for heart disease, and this study shows that the same may be true in children too, though more studies are needed. Most families in the study were able to follow these dietary guidelines for the four-week study, but we found that they had difficulty purchasing the food necessary for a balanced plant-based diet. So we know that plant-based diets are effective, but if they are to be widely used, they need to make access to plant-based, no-added-fat foods easier and more affordable."
The study appears online by The Journal of Pediatrics.