Vegan and vegetarian diets provide a vast array of health benefits

New research published in the journal PLOS ONE today reveals that vegetarian and vegan diets are linked to reduced risk factors for cancer and cardiometabolic diseases, highlighting significant health benefits associated with plant-based eating.

A comprehensive review of 49 studies conducted between 2000 and 2023 indicates that plant-based diets offer various advantages. According to the study authors, these diets are associated with improved lipid profiles, glycemic control, body weight/BMI, inflammation reduction, and lower risks of ischemic heart disease and cancer. Moreover, a vegetarian diet is linked to decreased mortality from cardiovascular diseases.

The researchers also found that vegetarian and vegan diets not only promote better cardiometabolic health but also lower the risk of prostate and gastrointestinal cancer.

Previous research suggests that diets rich in meat, sugar, refined grains, and salt are linked to higher mortality rates. Additionally, reducing animal product consumption has been associated with decreased risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

According to Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, a senior dietitian supervisor at RR-UCLA Medical Center, the latest findings corroborate previous knowledge regarding the health benefits of plant-based diets. She emphasizes the importance of whole food plant-based diets, which offer various nutrients, fiber, and anti-inflammatory compounds, contributing to overall well-being.

However, the researchers caution that certain plant-based diets may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies in some individuals. Pooja Adhyaru, an accredited practicing dietitian, underscores the necessity of careful planning to prevent nutrient deficiencies, especially in vulnerable populations.

In the United States, meat consumption remains notably high, with animal products accounting for a significant portion of total energy and protein intake. Christopher Gardner, PhD, a nutrition science researcher at Stanford University, stresses the importance of dietary recommendations focused on plant-based foods, supported by organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association.

Experts advise moderation in consuming animal products, particularly processed meats, which are considered carcinogenic. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend prioritizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources for a healthy eating plan.

Ultimately, the comparative healthfulness of vegetarian and vegan diets depends on individual dietary choices and practices. Gardner emphasizes the significance of how these dietary patterns are followed to determine their overall health impact.

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