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According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine, eating high amounts of plant-based food like berries and green leafy vegetables can help slow down heart failure and boost cardiac function and cognitive health.
Published in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Nutrition, a new study found that maintaining a plant-based diet and cutting down on foods that are high in saturated fat as well as animal-based foods, can help improve the heart’s function and eventually lower your risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Funded by the NHLBI Multidisciplinary Training Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology, the study involved researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine evaluating the dietary and echocardiographic data of 2,512 participants of the Framingham Heart Study (Offspring Cohort).
Heart failure (HF) affects over 6.5 million adults in the U.S. and over 26 million worldwide and apart from having damaging effects on several organ systems, HF is linked with a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Further, HF can lead to changes in cardiac structure and function (i.e. cardiac remodeling) that are attributed to poor cognitive function and cerebral health.
Shockingly, HF remains the leading cause for people in the U.S. being admitted in hospitals, and globally, the costs associated with HF are estimated to be US$108 billion.
To prevent HF, lifestyle changes like the adoption of the Mediterranean diet (MIND) which consists of fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, low-fat dairy, and extra virgin olive oil along with reducing red meat and saturated fats as per PREDIMED guidelines and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) are recommended.
Analyzing the MIND diet, researchers found that following a green diet like this along with reducing products high in saturated fats and animal-derived products, have a positive impact on the hearts’ left ventricular function which is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood throughout our body.
After comparing the participants’ MIND diet score to measures of cardiac structure and function, it was observed that a dietary pattern that stresses foods thought to encourage the maintenance of neurocognitive health can help to lessen cardiac remodeling.
Our findings highlight the importance of adherence to the MIND diet for a better cardiovascular health and further reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in the communityVanessa Xanthakis, Corresponding author in the study
Furthermore, researchers highlighted previous studies that show the importance of diet as a modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.
Vanessa Xanthakis, the corresponding author in the study, who holds a PhD, and is the assistant professor of medicine and biostatistics at BUSM as well as an Investigator for the Framingham Heart Study, said: “Our findings highlight the importance of adherence to the MIND diet for a better cardiovascular health and further reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in the community.”
In another study comparing vegan diets and the MIND diet, researchers found that low-fat plant-based diets resulted in more positive outcomes in terms of insulin sensitivity and body composition.
According to another study, led by the National Cancer Institute in the U.S., the findings saw an “inverse association” between higher consumption of plant-based foods and heart disease mortality rates with the leading inverse associations recorded in the replacement of eggs and red meat with plant proteins and additionally, it was found that animal foods such as unprocessed red meat and processed meat combined can result in increased risks of ischaemic heart disease, pneumonia, diverticular disease, colon polyps, and diabetes.
Dr. Xanthakis added that while following a healthy diet might not always be possible due to a range of factors, individuals should make an earnest effort to eat nutritious plant-based foods in order to lower the risk of disease and improve their quality of life.
Further underlining these conclusions, a correlation between plant-based diets and gut microbes that help lower risks for heart disease, obesity and diabetes was found aswell.
Apart from being good for human health, plant-based proteins are more environmentally-friendly with an Oxford University 2019 study finding that healthy plant-based foods are almost always associated with a smaller carbon footprint with experts warning that without a drastic reduction in global meat and dairy consumption, emissions from our food system will put the Paris agreement goals far out of reach.
Lead image courtesy of Nadine Primeau/Unsplash.