In a new study, researchers found that following a vegan diet for five weeks may decrease risk factors for heart disease.
The research was conducted by a team at Rush Medical College and elsewhere.
Heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, and African Americans have the highest risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease includes many types of heart and blood vessel diseases caused by atherosclerosis, a condition that occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries.
This buildup makes it hard for blood to flow through the arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The study included 50 African Americans who were asked to eat only prepared meals delivered to their homes.
A vegan diet includes only plant-based foods. The meals the participants received included no meat, seafood or dairy. This means they had no dietary cholesterol. The meals also were low in sodium and calories.
The team used a heart disease risk calculator to assess their risk of heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years in the participants.
They found that in 36 participants who had pre- and post-diet risk scores, their risk fell by about 19%—from 10.83% to 8.74% after following a vegan diet.
They found that the diet reduced LDL cholesterol levels by 14%. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to atherosclerosis.
The diet also reduced systolic blood pressure by 10 points. Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading.
The findings suggest the benefits of a low-salt, low-meat diet on LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, important risk factors for heart disease.
Future work needs to confirm the finding with a larger, more representative sample of participants.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Kim Allan Williams Sr., chief of the Division of Cardiology at Rush Medical College in Chicago.
The study was presented recently at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference.
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