A new study has shown that plant-based foods could help people live longer.
They could help decrease the risk of deaths from heart disease and other causes.
High-quality plant-based foods include whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
Previously, scientists have found that a high-quality plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
In the present study, the researchers examined how eating high quality or low-quality plant-based foods could influence people’s heart health and lifespan.
They examined 47,983 women (average age 64 years) in the Nurses’ Health Study and 25,737 men (average age 64 years) in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.
All of the participants were cancer-free and heart-disease-free when they started. The team assessed the diet change in these people for 12 years.
They found deaths from all causes were 10% lower in people with a high-quality plant-based diet. On the contrary, deaths from all causes were 11% higher in people with a low-quality plant-based diet.
This suggests that eating high-quality plant-based foods like vegetables and fruits for a long time can lower the risk of death even in people who used to eat poor-quality diets.
But the researchers warn that not all plant-based foods are equal. Only the ones with high quality can help protect health.
The low-quality plant-based foods include fruit juices, refined grains, potatoes, and sweets.
According to the researchers, everyone can decrease their death risk from heart disease by replacing unhealthy food with high-quality plant-based foods.
For example, replacing 1 serving/day intake of refined grains with whole grains, increasing fruit intake by 1 serving/day and vegetable intake by 1 serving/day, and decreasing sugary beverage intake by 1 serving/day) could reduce death risk by 10%.
This is the first study examining how positive or negative changes in diet may influence people’s death risk, regardless of what they ate in the beginning.
The team suggests that future research need to examine the cause-and-effect relationship between dietary changes and the risk of death.
The study lead author is Megu Y. Baden, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2019.
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