KEY POINTS

  • Nearly 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with heart diseases every year
  • Strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet significantly reduces heart disease risk
  • Combining healthy foods in a variety of flexible ways can improve heart health

Plant-based diet plans like the Mediterranean diet reduce heart disease risk by nearly 20%, according to recent research.

The experts at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported that people who followed the Mediterranean diet, Greek and Italian cuisine-based fight-and plant-based meals, or other plant-based diets had a 14-21% lower risk for cardiovascular diseases, depending on how well they adhered to it.

Higher compliance with a healthy eating plan was linked to a 10-20% reduced risk of heart diseases, according to the researchers.

“We found that following a variety of healthy eating patterns confers significant health benefits in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease," Dr. Frank B. Hu, the study author, professor, and chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public School told UPI.

“These heart-healthy diets share common characteristics such as higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, and lower consumption of red and processed meats and added sugar," Hu told UPI.

The Study:

The researchers tracked the heart health of 165,794 women and 43,338 men for nearly 32 years. None of them had any history of heart disease. They evaluated the effects of four different dietary approaches on heart disease risk using several measures of adherence including the following:

  • The Healthy Eating Index-2015
  • The Alternate Mediterranean Diet Score
  • The Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index
  • The Alternate Healthy Eating Index

Key Findings:

  • In a total 23,366 cases of heart diseases reported, 5700 were strokes and about 18,000 were congestive heart diseases
  • Those who followed the Mediterranean diet saw reductions in their heart disease risk by 17% compared to those who didn’t
  • Those who scored high on the Healthful Plant-Based Diet Index lowered their heart disease risk by 14%
  • Study participants who scored highly on the Healthy Eating Index-2015 saw 17% reductions in heart disease risk
  • And those who scored well on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index lowered their heart disease risk by 21%

The researchers highlighted the fact that there is no magic bullet diet to health and longevity and that there is no such thing called a ‘magic diet solution’.  They recommend consuming a variety of healthy foods in flexible ways and follow a healthy eating pattern according to each person’s health needs, food preferences, as well as, cultural traditions.