1. Long term consumption of a nutritionally rich, plant-centered diet starting in young adulthood was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)
The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease and therefore, cardiovascular health is a topic that is continuously being studied. One key factor in these studies is diet with the goal of finding a preventative approach to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD can include myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure, atherosclerotic disease, and hypertension. This prospective cohort study aimed to investigate the long-term impacts of plant-centered diets on incidence of CVD. In order to do so, participants (n= 5115) aged 18-30 were enrolled in the study. Participants were interviewed using the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) diet history questionnaire. Specifically, the A Priori Diet Quality Score (APDQS) was used at year 0, 7, and 20 to assess participants’ diets. This scale allows for classification of flood groups into ‘beneficial’, ‘adverse’, and ‘neutral’ with regards to their impacts on CVD. The APDQS ‘beneficial’ category does not only include plant foods but also nutritionally rich animal products such as fish and low-fat yogurts. The flexibility of this scale allows for maintenance and ease of long-term healthy consumption in participants who do not intend to eat fully vegan diets. Over the course of 32 years, participants, who were enrolled with no prior CVD, were monitored for CVD. Overall, there were 289 CVD incidents throughout the study timeline. Participants with higher scores of APDQS (healthier diets in the ‘beneficial’ category) were found to have a 52% lower risk of CVD. These participants were more often women, higher education levels, and more physically active than their counterparts with lower APDQS scores. A strength of this study was that its participants were a younger cohort, allowing for a better analysis of the transition from young to middle adulthood. Previous studies have focused on middle age and older adults when assessing CVD but the younger cohort allows for better follow-up as well as insight into prevention strategies. Overall, the findings of this study are clinically relevant as healthcare professionals can encourage patients to begin introducing nutritionally rich plant-centered foods into their diets. Cardiovascular disease is omnipresent and prevention at a young age is key. By introducing these healthy diet changes in early adulthood, the devastating impacts of cardiovascular disease may be reduced along with the clinical burden on the healthcare system.
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