Lynn Swassing was just 48 years old, the mother of two sons in high school
and one daughter in college, when she had a heart attack in 1987. She
underwent quadruple bypass surgery and was hospitalized for nearly six
Every single day, at some point, the hospital had an exercise specialist at
the foot of my bed, she recalls. They told me, if you don't get active, you
won't make it.
No way,was Swassing's first thought. The full-time mom had never been on a
treadmill in her life, and she...
On the other hand, the typical meat-based Western diet may increase the risk of heart disease, compared with diets high in fruits and vegetables. One study shows that a Western diet increases a woman's risk of getting heart disease by 46%.
Types of Plant-Based Diets
There are many different types of plant-based diets. The three most common ones are:
Vegan. No meat, eggs, or dairy products are allowed.
Lacto-vegetarian. You're not allowed to eat meat or eggs, but dairy products are OK.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. You can't eat meat but you can eat dairy products and eggs.
Most studies of such diets have been small. So far it's been hard for researchers to determine whether the heart benefits seen in these diets are due to the diets or if they are related to other factors, such as weight loss.
But there have been large-scale studies of the so-called Mediterranean diet, which isn't entirely plant-based. The Mediterranean diet allows small amounts of poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products, but almost no red meat.
In some studies, the Mediterranean diet is linked to health benefits such as lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Plant-Based Diets and Heart Risk Factors
In an analysis published in 2009 in the American Journal of Cardiology, researchers reviewed 27 studies on the heart benefits of four different types of plant-based diets:
Primary plant-based (similar to the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, but allows small amounts of lean meat)
Combination diet -- a traditional vegetarian or vegan diet combined with nuts, soy, and/or fiber
The researchers found that people who ate the combination diet decreased their total cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol by 20% to 35%.
Those who ate the vegan diet had LDL decreases of 15% to 25%. People who ate the lacto-ovo-vegetarian and primary plant-based diets had significantly smaller decreases: 10% to 15%.
The researchers also noted that plant-based diets are associated with: