HealthThe Benefits of Plant-Based Diets in Preventing Diseases

The Benefits of Plant-Based Diets in Preventing Diseases

The last few years have seen a boom in the popularity of plant-based diets such as veganism and vegetarianism across the mainstream. According to figures published by the National Library of Medicine (NIH), the number of people in the U.S. who follow a vegan diet increased by 600% from 2014 to 2018. What were once considered niche dietary choices for a select few, have now been widely embraced by much of society and are now seen as acceptable and healthy dietary alternatives. 

This drive toward the adoption of a diet that is free from animal products can arise for a number of reasons. These may include the desire to eliminate animal cruelty, reduce one’s environmental footprint, or religious or cultural reasons. One area in particular, in which plant-based diets are being touted for their benefits is that of health and wellness. 

With books such as those from author Kevin Trudeau, which introduce natural ways to cure and prevent disease, as well as movies on popular streaming sites that showcase the effects of our dietary choices on our health, many more people are looking for ways to improve their health by eating better. In this article, we will focus on the potential health benefits that a plant-based diet can offer you, helping you make positive and informed choices for a healthier lifestyle.

Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to a number of health risks including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. A meta-analysis and review of numerous studies published between 1984 and 2019 evaluated the impact of changes in diet on blood pressure among diabetic patients.

In addition to a vegan diet, other diets studied included the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The effects of all dietary changes were studied with a comparison group where no dietary changes were made. The results showed that the vegan diet, along with several others, significantly reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients.


Another systematic review done in 2020 demonstrated that a vegetarian or vegan diet reduces blood pressure in people diagnosed with hypertension. The study also revealed that those who followed a strict vegan diet showed the most significant reduction in blood pressure. These studies highlight the benefits of incorporating plant-based changes into the diet when it comes to reducing blood pressure in patients.

Cardiovascular Disease
Eating high levels of meat can contribute to heart disease due to high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats. Instead, a diet that is more plant-based can help to improve one’s cardiovascular health. There have been various studies on plant-based diets and their effects on cardiovascular function.

In one study, the Lifestyle Heart Trial, the relationship between factors such as dietary changes and atherosclerosis was evaluated. For this research, individuals with cardiac conditions were moved from their usual omnivorous diets to a plant-based regimen or the current American Heart Association diet. The study revealed that based on the two diets, 34% more individuals had a reduction in atherosclerosis on the plant-based diet compared to the recommended diet by the American Heart Association.

Another study that compared the death rates of vegetarians and omnivores found that vegetarians are at lower risk of ischemic heart disease and all-cause mortality compared to meat eaters with similar lifestyles. Another study published in the Neurology journal found that individuals who followed a healthy plant-based diet were at lower risk of having a stroke.

Studies like these show that a plant-based diet can help to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as help to improve the function of the heart. The significance of these discoveries should not be taken lightly as cardiovascular disease continues to rank as the leading cause of death in the U.S.  According to the latest figures, 695,547 people died from heart disease in America in 2021.

Type 2 Diabetes
There have been many studies undertaken in recent years which point to the benefits that a plant-based diet can offer individuals with type 2 diabetes. One study found that consuming a plant-based diet, especially one rich in high-quality plant foods, can lead to a substantially lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Other research in this area also highlights the benefits that a plant-based diet can offer to patients with type 2 diabetes, in terms of managing weight loss and blood sugar levels. This is something that has been recognized by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes.

A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Medicine involved patients with type 2 diabetes switching to a plant-based diet and beginning an exercise program. The results of the study revealed a reduction in triglycerides, cholesterol, insulin resistance, and fasting blood glucose in participants. Out of the 21 patients who took part in the study, five no longer needed any medications to lower their glucose levels. Findings such as these support the shift to a healthy plant-based diet for individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Dyslipidemia
Dyslipidemia refers to abnormal levels of lipids, or fats in the blood such as cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). High levels of lipids can increase the risk of coronary artery disease including cardiovascular disease, angina, and myocardial infarction.  One way to reduce the risk of developing coronary artery disease is to reduce the levels of cholesterol in the diet by removing meat and dairy products from one’s diet.

A 2020 study published in Clinical Epidemiology and Global Health looked at the relationship between meat consumption and LDL levels in individuals diagnosed with coronary artery disease. The results showed that the average LDL level in the meat-eating group was almost 35 points higher than that of the vegetarian group. Another 2020 review of plant-based diets revealed a significant reduction in LDL and cholesterol levels in individuals who did not eat either fish or meat products.

The research currently undertaken in relation to plant-based diets and diseases shows considerable support for their impact on health, helping to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. By incorporating these changes into your diet you can help to enhance your overall health and well-being.

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