Nav: Home

Vegetarian and Mediterranean diet may be equally effective in preventing heart disease

February 26, 2018

DALLAS, Feb. 26, 2018 -- A lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, which includes eggs and dairy but excludes meat and fish, and a Mediterranean diet are likely equally effective in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

Previous separate studies have shown that 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

Current study authors said they wanted to evaluate whether switching to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet would also be heart-healthy in people who were used to eating both meat and fish. "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.

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.

Researchers found participants on either diet:
  • lost about 3 pounds of body fat;
  • lost about 4 pounds of weight overall; and
  • experienced about the same change in body mass index, a measure of weight in relationship to height.
Authors said they did find two differences between the diets that may be noteworthy. 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.

Still, "the take-home message of our study is that 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."

In an editorial accompanying the study, 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 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."
-end-
Co-authors are Monica Dinu, MSc.; Giuditta Pagliai, MSc.; Francesca Cesari, MSc., Ph.D.; Anna Maria Gori, MSc.; Alice Sereni, MSc.; Matteo Becatti, MSc., Ph.D.; Claudia Fiorillo, MSc., Ph.D.; Rossella Marcucci, M.D., Ph.D.; and Alessandro Casini, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Additional Resources:Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations and health insurance providers are available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke - the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1.800.AHA.USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

American Heart Association

Related Heart Disease Articles:

Where you live could determine risk of heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease
People living in parts of Ontario with better access to preventive health care had lower rates of cardiac events compared to residents of regions with less access, found a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Older adults with heart disease can become more independent and heart healthy with physical activity
Improving physical function among older adults with heart disease helps heart health and even the oldest have a better quality of life and greater independence.
Dietary factors associated with substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and disease
Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 were associated with suboptimal consumption of certain dietary factors, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.
Certain heart fat associated with higher risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women
For the first time, researchers have pinpointed a type of heart fat, linked it to a risk factor for heart disease and shown that menopausal status and estrogen levels are critical modifying factors of its associated risk in women.
Maternal chronic disease linked to higher rates of congenital heart disease in babies
Pregnant women with congenital heart defects or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of giving birth to babies with severe congenital heart disease and should be monitored closely in the prenatal period, according to a study published in CMAJ.
Novel heart valve replacement offers hope for thousands with rheumatic heart disease
A novel heart valve replacement method is revealed today that offers hope for the thousands of patients with rheumatic heart disease who need the procedure each year.
Younger heart attack survivors may face premature heart disease death
For patients age 50 and younger, the risk of premature death after a heart attack has dropped significantly, but their risk is still almost twice as high when compared to the general population, largely due to heart disease and other smoking-related diseases The risk of heart attack can be greatly reduced by quitting smoking, exercising and following a healthy diet.
Citrus fruits could help prevent obesity-related heart disease, liver disease, diabetes
Oranges and other citrus fruits are good for you -- they contain plenty of vitamins and substances, such as antioxidants, that can help keep you healthy.
Gallstone disease may increase heart disease risk
A history of gallstone disease was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Americans are getting heart-healthier: Coronary heart disease decreasing in the US
Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Related Heart Disease Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".