While it’s likely the flavours and feelgood factor of their new planet-friendly diet will keep converts hooked, a new study from Australia has shown even a few months without meat is good for the heart.
The University of Sydney-led study used data from 20 previous clinical trials in which almost 2,000 participants already at risk of heart disease or failure, who were taking medication for conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, were asked to adopt a meat free or plant-based diet.
They found that cutting out meat for an average of just six months led to a lowering of cholesterol and average blood sugar levels – corresponding to a significant decrease in the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. About 160,000 people a year die of heart disease.
The shift to a healthier diet led to a decrease in the “bad cholesterol” that causes clogged blood vessels, while the fall in the level of blood sugar also ensured the blood vessels were healthier, thanks to the inflammation-reducing vitamins and nutrients found in plants. The study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, concluded a vegetarian diet reduced “multiple key risk factors” and should be used alongside medication to treat heart disease.
“Vegetarian diets were most effective in [blood sugar] control among people with type 2 diabetes, and led to favourable changes in weight in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease and in those with type 2 diabetes,” said the authors.
Professor Hugh Montgomery of University College London, a MFM supporter for the past decade, said: “A move to diets high in vegetables and low in ultra-processed food is known to be of benefit, and here we see that a vegan diet has impact.” He added that as well as improving the health of patients, a shift to a plant-based diet could save governments money and “reduc[e] greenhouse gas emissions related to meat production. Overall, then, moves in this direction have personal as well as societal benefits.”