It is currently known that plant-based diets, or essentially plant-based dietsThey are the best option in terms of health. In fact, and although it is usually said that animal protein is the best quality in terms of absorption, various studies increasingly advocate incorporating more vegetable proteins to the diet in exchange for animal protein, which in turn would reduce the consumption of meat in exchange for vegetables.
On the other hand, there is currently a very common confusion around plant-based diets, as if the mere eating more fruits and vegetables, among other foods, was a protective factor by itself independently of the rest of the diet. But things are not so easy, as a new work presented at the Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology, together with the World Congress of Cardiology, recalls: to enjoy the benefits of a plant-based diet avoid unhealthy foodsOtherwise, the health effects of this type of diet are nil.
Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular, in their different varieties. However, the health benefits of these diets not only depend on their plant richness, but from the specific foods consumed: if it is based on too many processed or ultra-processed, such as pastries, processed grains or juices, the health benefits will be non-existent.
This is suggested by the results of the study led by Demosthenes Panagiotakos, professor of biostatistics, research methods and epidemiology at the Harokopio University of Athens (Greece). According to Panagiotakos, suggest in a simplistic way the consumption of a plant-based diet, or even a vegetarian diet, would not be enough to reduce cardiovascular risk. It is of utmost importance to focus on specific healthy food groups, and not to take any processed or ultra-processed foods.
A Greek study
To reach such a conclusion, Panagiotakos and his colleagues analyzed the eating behavior and the potential development of cardiovascular disease in more than 2,000 Greek adults from 2002 to 2012. Participants were asked to complete a detailed survey on the frequency with which they consumed various foods at the beginning of the research, after five years , and finally ten years after starting the study.
At the end of the study, the researchers analyzed the relationship between diet and cardiovascular disease using a dietary index that divided the participants into three groups, according to the number of foods of animal origin they consumed per day (including both meats and derivatives, eggs or dairy).
According to their results, men who ate less food of animal origin they had up to 25% less risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to men who ate more foods of animal origin. A similar relationship was observed in women, but in their case the risk was reduced by only 11% among those who ate the least food of animal origin compared to those who consumed more.
In general, those who consumed the least food of animal origin took up to three foods of animal origin each day, while those who consumed the most foods of animal origin reached five per day. The differences, therefore, were small, but even so, a significant reduction in cardiovascular risk was found, especially if the emphasis was on the consumption of less healthy foods such as processed meats.
The quality of the diet
On the other hand, the researchers also they focused on the quality of the diet, and divided the participants who followed a more plant-based diet (those who only ate three foods of animal origin, at most, each day), and classified them according to how healthy their diet was: those who consumed more fruits, vegetables , whole grains, legumes, nuts, oils, tea or coffee were classified as healthier, compared to those that incorporated processed or ultra-processed products in greater quantity, such as juices, sugary drinks, processed grains or pastries, which were classified as less healthy .
In this case, only participants who followed a healthy plant-based diet had a significant reduction in their cardiovascular risk, compared to those who ate more products of animal origin. Those who based their diet on processed and ultra-processed did not benefit.
Likewise, they were also observed Differences between men and women in this case. In general, the men ate three times a day, while the women ate four or five times a day on average. Furthermore, women showed a more dramatic increase in cardiovascular risk if they ate an unhealthy plant-based diet; And, for their part, it was precisely women who obtained the greatest benefits from consuming a healthy plant-based diet.
Finally, it should be noted that the study is not without limitations, given that it was based on surveys of participants on three occasions, without conducting a clinical trial as such. Still, the researchers suggest that in the future nutritional suggestions should be clearer and more specific, both in the type of food to consume and in its portions.