Plant-based diet could help cut risk of heart failure by 42%, say scientists

Increasing coffee consumption by one cup per week was also found to reduce the risk of heart failure

Rachel Hosie
Tuesday 14 November 2017 13:50 GMT

Going vegan or vegetarian could help you live longer, according to a new study.

Scientists say a plant-based diet may help to reduce the risk of deadly heart failure. According to a study of five different kinds of diet, people who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables are 42 per cent less likely to develop the condition than those who consumed fewer plant-based foods.

Another team of researchers found that increasing coffee consumption by one cup per week reduced the risk of heart failure by seven per cent and stroke by eight per cent.

Heart failure is a potentially fatal condition that occurs when the heart is too weak to pump blood efficiently around the body.

Scientists from Icahn School of Medicine in New York recruited 15,569 participants for the diet study and monitored their health for four years.

They studied five different diet types:

  • Convenience - red meats, pastas, fried potatoes, fast foods
  • Plant-based - dark leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, fish
  • Sweets - desserts, breads, sweet breakfast foods, chocolate, candy
  • Southern - eggs, fried food, organ meats, processed meat, sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Alcohol/salads - salad dressings, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, butter, wine.

The researchers found that the participants who followed the plant-based diet had the strongest association with a lower risk of incident heart failure when adjusted for age, sex and race of the participants and for other risk factors.

There were no associations for the other four dietary patterns found.

Lead researcher Dr Kyla Lara, from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said: “Eating a diet mostly of dark green leafy plants, fruits, beans, whole grains and fish, while limiting processed meats, saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and foods high in added sugars is a heart-healthy lifestyle and may specifically help prevent heart failure if you don't already have it.”

The findings about coffee consumption came about after re-analysing data from the Framingham Heart Study, a long-running US investigation of heart disease risk factors involving thousands of participants.

The researchers found that each additional cup of coffee drunk per week was associated with a lower risk of heart failure and stroke compared to those who consumed no coffee.

The study was carried out using an artificially intelligent machine-learning system.

First author Laura Stevens, from the University of Colorado, US, said: “Our findings suggest that machine learning could help us identify additional factors to improve existing risk assessment models.”

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, added: “Previous research has suggested that intakes of three to five cups of coffee a day shouldn’t affect the risk of developing heart and circulatory disease.

But, she says, more research is needed before we can be confident about how coffee affects our heart health.

“Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, cutting down on salt, and maintaining a healthy weight are all important parts of a balanced diet that helps lower the risk of heart disease and stroke,” Taylor recommends.

“Our advice for people trying to improve their lifestyle is to focus on their whole diet, rather than the amount of individual foods or drinks they consume.”

Findings from both studies were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting in Anaheim, California.

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