- Plant-based vegetarian diets lowered total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels
- Plant-based diet aids in weight loss, reduces blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels
- Increase the intake of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts to improve health
Plant-based vegetarian diets, particularly vegan diets were found to be associated with lowering total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels when compared to omnivorous diets, reveals a new dietary review of 49 observational and controlled studies.
The meta-analysis is published online in Nutrition Reviews
. The research team included Yoko Yokoyama, Ph.D., M.P.H., Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C. and Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., who reviewed 30 observational studies and 19 clinical trials of which met their inclusion criteria. They found:
In observational studies, a plant-based vegetarian diet has been linked to lower total cholesterol by 29.2 mg/dL. However, in clinical trials, a plant-based diet lowered total cholesterol by 12.5 mg/dL.
‘Further research is needed on the long-term cardiovascular health benefits of a vegetarian diet, which reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, and premature death.’
- In observational studies, a plant-based vegetarian diet, LDL cholesterol reduced by 22.9 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol reduced by 3.6 mg/dL, when compared to the control groups who followed an omnivorous diet.
- In clinical trials, a plant-based vegetarian diet was associated with 12.2 mg/dL reduction in LDL cholesterol and 3.4 mg/dL reduction in HDL cholesterol, when compared with the control groups who followed an omnivorous, low-fat, calorie-restricted, or a conventional diabetes diet.
- In observational studies or clinical trials, a plant-based vegetarian diet was found to be not linked with statistically significant changes in triglyceride levels.
The strong association between vegetarian diets and reduced cholesterol levels might be due to a plant-based diet which lowers the body weight, reduced intake of saturated fat, and an increased intake of plant foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts are found to be naturally rich in soy protein, soluble fiber and plant sterols, reveal scientists.
The research team hypothesized that the greater risk reduction for HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol levels are likely due to long-term adherence to plant-based eating patterns and changes in body composition, as observed in the longitudinal studies.
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D, author of the study said that the health benefits of a plant-based diet like weight loss, reduced blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels have been well documented in controlled studies.
She also said, "Our goal with studying plasma lipids throughout the lifespan is to capture the net risk reduction of using a vegetarian diet to control lipid levels. We hope to empower patients with new research about the long-term cardiovascular health benefits of a vegetarian diet, which includes a reduced risk of a heart attack, stroke, and premature death."
Plant-based vegetarian diets lower total cholesterol, HDL and LDL levels
Charles Ross who has a firsthand experience with putting a plant-based diet into practice, is a D.O., a member of the nonprofit Physicians Committee and a former emergency department physician.
Dr. Ross, who's in his late 60s, takes no medications and in 2012, he adopted a whole-food, plant-based diet and found that his previous high total cholesterol has been lowered to a healthy 135 mg/dL from 230 mg/dL.
He effortlessly lost 10 pounds within the first month of making these dietary changes, and within a year, Dr. Ross gave up his 34-year career of practicing emergency medicine for a new career path: Lifestyle medicine. He hosts free biweekly nutrition classes for his primary care patients and to the community, after 5.5 years of career switch.
Besides, more than 700 people have enrolled to learn how to lose weight, to treat type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol without medications and to only feel better.
Dr. Ross's former hometown of Roseburg, Ore., is now a Blue Zones community and is a part-time instructor at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Northwest. He hopes to set an example for future physicians.
Dr. Ross, who now resides in Westfir, Ore said that he no longer works for a living.
He also said, "I wake up every day eager to hear about how a plant-based diet and a healthful lifestyle is changing and saving lives in our community. What I've found is that if you want your patients to make significant health changes, you have to make them yourself. The prescription started to spread soon after my family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends heard about my experience."
For clinicians who are concerned about spending extra time in and outside of the exam room, the research team encourages health care providers to refer the patients to registered dietitians, who can help them to shift to a plant-based vegetarian diet.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans highlighted three healthful eating plans to follow and healthy vegetarian diet is one of them.
The research team also noted hyperlipidemia, which is elevated cholesterol and triglycerides that are often underdiagnosed and undertreated.
The prevalence of treatment for hyperlipidemia increases by 10 percent increase and can prevent 8,000 deaths each year.
Taking small measures in assessing risk for heart disease, making lifestyle changes and dietary recommendations and assessment for future follow-up appointments and pharmaceutical interventions, as proposed by the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel 3 can prevent 20,000 heart attacks, 10,000 cases of coronary heart disease and can save up to $3 billion in medical costs every year.
We have to get healthy to make any form of health care work and to truly build economic mobility, and the first place to start the work is by building meals around nutrient-packed, plant-based foods, which fits exactly into every cultural template, taste preference, and budget, says Levin.