Healthy, Plant-Based Diet Linked to Lower Risk for Coronary Heart Disease — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
July 18, 2017

Healthy, Plant-Based Diet Linked to Lower Risk for Coronary Heart Disease

By Kelly Young

Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH

Eating a diet heavy in plants is associated with reduced coronary heart disease risk, provided they're the right plants, suggests a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers scored over 200,000 participants' diets on three indices based on food frequency questionnaires:

  • Plant-based diet index (PDI): points awarded for plant intake and taken away for animal foods

  • Healthful PDI: points for whole grains, vegetables, nuts, etc.

  • Unhealthful PDI: points for refined grains, sweets, potatoes, etc.

During roughly 25 years' follow-up, 4% developed coronary heart disease. The highest decile of the PDI was associated with a 7% reduced CHD risk, compared with the lowest decile after adjusting for confounders. A healthful PDI was associated with a 12% reduced risk, while an unhealthful PDI carried a 10% increased risk.

Editorialists recommend: "Just as physical activity is a continuum, perhaps an emphasis on starting with smaller dietary tweaks rather than major changes would be more encouraging and sustainable for those finding it difficult to make a complete and precipitous change in dietary habits."

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