People who consume more plant-based foods than animal-based foods have a reduced risk of dying from heart disease, a new study has found.
UK scientists looked at the diet and lifestyle habits of over 451,000 people from 10 European countries. All were aged between 35 and 70 and were monitored for an average of 12 years.
Plant-based foods include fruit, vegetables, cereals, beans and nuts. Animal-based foods include meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
The study found that those whose diets were made up of at least 70% of plant-based foods had a 20% reduced risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who ate a diet low in plant-based foods (less than 45%).
"A pro-vegetarian diet doesn't make absolute recommendations about specific nutrients. It focuses on increasing the proportion of plant-based foods relative to animal-based foods, which results in an improved nutritionally balance diet," commented the study's lead author, Dr Camille Lassale, of Imperial College London.
The study took into account other risk factors such as the amount of calories consumed on a daily basis, body mass index (BMI) and physical activity levels.
The scientists concluded that people do not have to stop eating animal-based foods altogether, they should just reduce the amount they consume.
"Instead of drastic avoidance of animal-based foods, substituting some of the meat in your diet with plant-based sources may be a very simple, useful way to lower cardiovascular mortality," Dr Lassale said.
Details of these findings were presented at the American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2015 meeting in Maryland in the US.
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