Vegan Diet May Reduce
Chances Of Heart Disease
NEW YORK, Apr 07 (Reuters Health) -- Avoiding all animal-based food including dairy products and eggs -- known as a vegan diet - may reduce blood levels of an amino acid linked with heart disease, according to a report.
In a new study, researchers found that in just one week, blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine dropped by 13% in people who tried the strict vegetarian diet. High blood levels of homocysteine have been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.
The diet was also low-fat, deriving no more than 20% of calories from fat, and the study subjects took part in moderate exercise, stress management and avoided tobacco, alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated beverages. The 40 study subjects also participated in ``spirituality enhancement sessions,'' the authors report in the journal Preventive Medicine.
``Our results suggest that broad-based lifestyle interventions favorably impact homocysteine levels,'' report Dr. David J. DeRose and colleagues from the Lifestyle Center of America in Sulphur, Oklahoma, a facility dedicated to addressing chronic illnesses through alternative medicine or lifestyle changes.
About 63% of study subjects had diabetes, 60% had high blood pressure, 43% had high cholesterol, 25% had heart disease, and 5% were smokers. All enrolled in the program voluntarily, in an effort to switch to a healthier lifestyle. People with heart disease had the highest levels of homocysteine at the beginning of the study, but they also had the greatest decreases (over 20%), note the authors.
Increasing intake of folic acid is known to decrease homocysteine levels, which may partly explain the drop seen in the new study. The participants had a daily intake of folate (folic acid is a form of folate) of 480 micrograms. In comparison, the average man in the US over age 20 has an intake of about 301 micrograms and women over 20 have an average intake of 226 micrograms.
The findings suggest -- but do not prove -- that a vegan diet may help reduce heart risk factors, said study co-author Joshua Muscat in an interview with Reuters Health.
``It indicates that a vegan diet may be helpful in lowering homocysteine levels, which is a risk factor for coronary heart disease, but it's not a controlled clinical trial in any sense,'' said Muscat, a research scientist at the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, New York. ``While the evidence is certainly intriguing, it can't be considered a means to lowering homocysteine levels.'' The American Health Foundation is a nonprofit institute that focuses on disease prevention through diet and lifestyle.
The findings do indicate that multiple lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of chronic disease, Muscat said.
SOURCE: Preventive Medicine 2000;30:225-233.


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