- A diet including vegetables, eggs, and dairy has a similar effect as the Mediterranean diet in protecting heart diseases.
- Switching to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet would also be heart-healthy in people who were used to eating both meat and fish.
- The lacto-ovo-vegan diet helps reduce weight, body fat and bad cholesterol levels.
Vegetables, dairy, and eggs in the diet are as effective as a Mediterranean diet in reducing the risk of heart diseases.
A lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, which includes eggs and dairy but excludes meat and fish, is different from a Mediterranean diet which includes fish and lean cuts of meat.
‘The vegetarian diet was more effective at reducing the "bad" cholesterol, while the Mediterranean diet reduced triglycerides, which increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.’
A Mediterranean diet reduces certain risk factors for cardiovascular disease, as does a vegetarian diet; however, this was the first study to compare effects of the two distinct eating patterns.
"To best evaluate this issue, we decided to compare a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet with a Mediterranean diet in the same group of people," said Francesco Sofi, M.D., Ph.D, lead study author, and professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Florence and Careggi University Hospital in Italy.
Mediterranean Diet On a Tie With Lacto-ovo-vegetarian Diet
The study included 107 healthy but overweight participants, ages 18-75, who were randomly assigned to follow for three months either a low-calorie vegetarian diet, which included dairy and eggs, or a low-calorie Mediterranean diet for three months.
The Mediterranean diet included poultry, fish and some red meat as well as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. After three months, the participants switched diets. Most participants were able to stay on both diets.
were found in both the groups:
Two Differences Between the diets
- loss in 3 pounds of body fat
- Overall weight reduced by 4 pounds
- the same change in body mass index, a measure of weight in relationship to height.
: The vegetarian diet was more effective at reducing LDL (the "bad") cholesterol
, while the Mediterranean diet
resulted greater reductions in triglycerides
, high levels of which increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.
"A low-calorie lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet can help patients reduce cardiovascular risk about the same as a low-calorie Mediterranean diet," Sofi said. "People have more than one choice for a heart-healthy diet."
Cheryl A. M. Anderson, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S., an associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego, in California, wrote that there were similarities between the two diets that may explain the results.
Both follow "a healthy dietary pattern rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes [beans], whole grains and nuts; focusing on diet variety, nutrient density and an appropriate amount of food; and limiting energy intake from saturated fats."
Anderson, who was not involved in the study, added that promoting both diets by healthcare professionals "offer a possible solution to the ongoing challenges to prevent and manage obesity and cardiovascular diseases."
Study limitations include the fact that participants were at "relatively low" risk of cardiovascular disease. Anderson said future research should compare the diets in patients at higher risk for heart disease and should also explore "whether or not healthful versions of traditional diets around the world that emphasize fresh foods and limit sugars, saturated fats, and sodium can prevent and manage obesity and cardiovascular diseases."
Francesco Sofi, Monica Dinu, Giuditta Pagliai, Francesca Cesari, Anna Maria Gori, Alice Sereni, Matteo Becatti, Claudia Fiorillo, Rossella Marcucci, Alessandro Casini. 'Low-Calorie Vegetarian Versus Mediterranean Diets for Reducing Body Weight and Improving Cardiovascular Risk Profile: CARDIVEG Study (Cardiovascular Prevention With Vegetarian Diet).' Circulation (2018). https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030088.