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Vegan Diet Good For Heart?

Armen Hareyan's picture

People with rheumatoid arthritis could cut their risk of heart attacks and strokes by removing meat, dairy products and gluten from their diets, the Daily Mail reports. A Swedish study has found that a vegan diet reduced levels of 'bad' cholesterol (LDL) and "boosted levels of natural antibodies to fight compounds in the body that are implicated in rheumatoid arthritis," the newspaper says.

The story is based on a trial that looked at whether a vegan diet could lower cholesterol and other indicators of cardiovascular disease in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike the suggestions in some of the newspaper headlines, this study did not look at the effect of a vegan diet on the participants' arthritis directly. The study found that there were reductions in weight and 'bad' cholesterol for those on the vegan diet.

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However, it did not involve enough people or last long enough to look at the effects of the vegan diet on cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks or strokes. Furthermore, the long-term effects of the gluten-free vegan diet are uncertain. Many of the people assigned to the vegan diet did not keep it up for the entire year, and it may be difficult for people used to a non-vegan diet to make such a drastic change in their eating habits.

Most bad cholesterol is generated by eating saturated animal fat, so eating more vegetables and less meat is a well-known technique for reducing bad cholesterol and heart attacks. People who stuck to the vegan diet lost weight, but it is not clear whether the gluten-free vegan diet would offer any specific advantages over other healthy diets aimed at weight loss.

All individuals who wish to reduce their chances of cardiovascular disease should aim to eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking and do an appropriate level of exercise.