The vegan diet is good for the heart: results in just 8 weeks

The vegan diet is good for the heart: results in just 8 weeks

The vegan diet is heart-saving: this is suggested by a study on pairs of identical twins published in the journal Jama Network Open.

Why a twin study

Conducted by researchers at Stanford Medicine on 22 pairs of twins, the study shows that a vegan diet improves cardiovascular health in just eight weeks. Several studies show that eating less meat improves cardiovascular health, however research on the diet is often hampered by factors such as genetic differences, family environment and lifestyle choices. By studying identical twins, researchers were able to control for genetics and limit other factors, since twins grow up in the same families and have similar lifestyles. “This study provided a revolutionary way to argue that a vegan diet is healthier than the conventional omnivorous diet,” says the lead author Christopher Gardner.

Two healthy diets compared

The trial consisted of pairing one twin from each pair with a vegan or omnivorous diet. Both diets were healthy, rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grains and free from refined sugars and starches. The vegan diet was completely plant-based, with no meat or animal products such as eggs or milk. The omnivorous diet included chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, dairy products and other animal foods.

The results on cholesterol, insulin and body weight

The authors found the most significant improvement in the first four weeks. Participants on a vegan diet had significantly lower levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), insulin, and body weight, all associated with improved cardiovascular health, compared to the omnivorous twins. At the beginning of the study, at four weeks and at eight weeks, the researchers weighed the participants and took their blood. The mean baseline LDL-C level for vegans was 110.7 mg/dL and for omnivores 118.5 mg/dL; it dropped to 95.5 for vegans and 116.1 for omnivores by the end of the study. Vegan participants also showed a 20% decrease in fasting insulin – high insulin levels are a risk factor for developing diabetes. Vegans also lost an average of 4.2 pounds more than omnivores.
“Based on these findings, most of us would benefit from a more plant-based diet,” Gardner concludes.

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