Better adherence to a plant-based diet was associated with lower risk for CVD, but the effect of healthy or unhealthy food choices on long-term CVD risk was more prominent in women.
According to findings presented at the American College of Cardiology Scientific Session, researchers assessed dietary patterns and CVD events among 2,020 Greek individuals between 2001 and 2012 and stratified patients to three tertiles of plant-based dietary indices.
A multivariable-adjusted model showed an inverse relationship between plant-based dietary indices and CVD events among men (adjusted HR for third vs. first tertile = 0.75; 95% CI, 0.6-0.92) and borderline significance for women (HR for third vs. first tertile = 0.89; 95% CI, 0.75-1.01).
However, only participants in the highest tertile of plant-based diet adherence were protected against CVD, with this association being stronger for women than for men (HR for third vs. first tertile in women = 0.68; 95% CI, 0.56-0.95; HR for third vs. first tertile in men = 0.87; 95% CI, 0.76-1.05).
Healthy plant-based dietary indices were defined as increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, oils, and tea or coffee. Unhealthy indices included elevated consumption of juices, sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes and sweets.
“Based on these results, it seems that simply following a plant-based or vegetarian diet is not enough to reduce cardiovascular disease risk,” Demosthenes Panagiotakos, PhD, professor of biostatistics, research methods and epidemiology at Harokopio University of Athens, Greece, said in a press release. “It is also important to focus on specific, healthful plant-based food groups to see a benefit in terms of reducing cardiovascular disease.
“These findings highlight that even a small reduction in the daily consumption of animal-based products — principally the less-healthy foods, such as processed meat products — accompanied by an increase in healthy plant-based foods may contribute to better cardiovascular health,” Panagiotakos said in the release.
In other findings, the aggravating effects of unhealthy plant-based food choices were higher in women (HR for third vs. first tertile = 1.35; 95% CI, 1.1-1.82).
For this prospective study, researchers assessed Greek adults with no prior history of CVD. Participants completed dietary surveys at the time of enrollment, at 5 years and at 10 years.
“In the future, I believe it will be useful if cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines offer clearer and specific nutrition suggestions, in terms of the types of foods that are recommended and the portions that should be consumed,” Panagiotakos said in the release. – by Scott Buzby
Panagiotakos D, et al. Abstract 1161-106. Presented at: American College of Cardiology Scientific Session; March 28-30, 2020 (virtual meeting).
Disclosure: Panagiotakos reports no relevant financial disclosures.