Around 10% of U.S. Adults, or some 22.8 million people, say that they follow a largely vegetarian-inclined diet. Many vegetarians believe it is a healthy alternative to the traditional, super-sized American diet.
And a new study only further backs up these claims with the finding that a vegetarian diet can potentially lower an individual’s cholesterol.
The dietary study was based on a review of 49 previous studies, and it finds that plant-based vegetarian diets are associated with lower levels of total cholesterol. This was in comparison to traditionally omnivorous diets.
The authors of the study — Yoko Yokoyama, PhD, Susan Levin, M.S., and Neal Barnard, M.D. –reviewed some 30 observational studies and 19 clinical trials, which had to meet their specific criteria.
In their study, the authors found the following:
A plant-based diet is not associated with significant changes in triglyceride levels in either the observational studies or clinical trials. There may be a strong correlation between vegetarian diets and lower cholesterol because those that follow the diet have reduced body weight, lower intake of saturated fat, and an increased intake of plant foods which are naturally rich in fiber.
They also believe that the greater risk reduction for total HDL and LDL cholesterol levels is likely due to a long-term adherence to vegetarian diets.
“The immediate health benefits of a plant-based diet, like weight loss, lower blood pressure, and improved cholesterol, are well documented in controlled studies,” says study author Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D. “Our goal with studying plasma lipids throughout the lifespan is to capture the net risk reduction of using a vegetarian diet to control lipid levels. We hope to empower patients with new research about the long-term cardiovascular health benefits of a vegetarian diet, which includes a reduced risk of a heart attack, stroke, and premature death.”
The authors believe that a plant-based diet is a good start to a healthier lifestyle, and might be the answer to a lot of the health issues that plague heavier individuals. It also might be a good way for healthcare to become more effective, Levin believes.
“To make any form of health care work and to truly power economic mobility, we have to get healthy,” says Levin. “The first place to start is by building meals around nutrient-packed, plant-based foods, which fit into nearly every cultural template, taste preference, and budget.”