Rx Nutrition Resource Center

Rx Nutrition Resource Center

March 15, 2019
2 min read

Plant-based diets with whole grains, fruits and veggies lower CV mortality risk

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Healthy plant-based diets lowered the risk for total and CVD mortality, whereas unhealthy plant-based diets raised the risk, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions.

“Not all plant-based diets are equal, but boosting the intake of high-quality plant-based foods over time lowers the risk of death even among people who started off with poor-quality diets,” Megu Y. Baden, MD, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a press release.

Data used in the study were collected from 49,407 women (mean age, 64 years) who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and 25,907 men (mean age, 64 years) from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. No participants had a history of heart disease or cancer upon enrollment in the study in 1998. Dietary reports were used to assess changes in participants’ diets 12 years before the study (1986 to 1998) and to serve as a baseline.

Researchers developed three scales for plant-based diets to investigate dietary changes: an overall plant-based diet index , a healthful plant-based diet index and an unhealthful plant-based diet index. Participants could achieve a better healthful plant-based diet index score by consuming additional servings of fruits and vegetables and decreasing sugary beverage servings.

Compared with those who had a stable diet before baseline, those who had the greatest increase in overall plant-based diet index had a lower risk for mortality (HR = 0.92; 95% CI, 0.88-0.97), as did those who had the greatest increase in healthful plant-based diet index (HR = 0.9; 95% CI, 0.86-0.95), whereas those with the greatest increase in unhealthful plant-based diet index had a higher risk for mortality (HR = 1.11; 95% CI, 1.06-1.16), according to the researchers.

In terms of CVD mortality, a 10-point increase in healthful plant-based diet index was associated with a 9% lower risk (95% CI, 5-15), whereas a 10-point increase in unhealthful plant-based diet index conferred a 7% higher risk (95% CI, 0-12), Baden and colleagues found.

No consistent evidence was observed for an association between changes in plant-based diet indices and risk for cancer mortality.

“Over a period of time, consuming more whole grains, fruits and vegetables while decreasing your intake of refined grains, sweets and desserts, and animal foods such as animal fat meat and miscellaneous animal-based foods may lower your risk of death from heart disease and other causes,” Baden said in the release. – by Erin Michael


Baden MY, et al. Abstract MP38. Presented at: American Heart Association Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions; March 5-8, 2019; Houston.

Disclosures: The study was supported by NIH grants. Baden reports he is supported by Manpei Suzuki Diabetes Foundation.