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Cutting out animal products from diet may help in reducing risk of heart diseases

Vegan diet may help in reducing the risk of heart diseases by bringing down the cholesterol levels, a recent study has shown.

health Updated: Jul 13, 2017 08:46 IST
vegan,diet,cardiovascular diseases
A vegan diet is one without animal products like milk, butter and honey.(Shutterstock)

New Delhi: Adopting a vegan diet, a diet without animal products like milk, butter and honey, can reduce the risk of cardio-vascular diseases, a study conducted at a city hospital has found out. As compared to a low-fat diet, a diet that only excludes products high in fat content like butter and red meat, a vegan diet led reduction in lipids -- a risk factor for heart diseases.

“Vegan diet is a completely vegetarian diet, but it additionally excludes products like paneer and milk that are an integral part of our diet. This diet has shown to be very effective in managing cardio-vascular diseases in studies abroad, so we wanted to study the impact on the Indian population. This pilot study has shown promising results, although the changes are not as drastic as in the Western population as they are used to eating a lot of red meat and lot of us are vegetarians, to begin with,” said Dr Ritika Samaddar, regional head of the department of clinical nutrition and dietetics at Max Hospitals.

According to the study, the total cholesterol levels in the group that followed a vegan diet went down by 43.7 units on average as compared to 34.4 units in people who followed a low-fat diet. The level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – or the bad cholesterol – went down by 51.8 units in people who followed a vegan diet and only 28.3 units in the group that had a low-fat diet.

So, who should follow the vegan diet? “A vegan diet is not a magical cure for heart diseases, however, in our experience, well planned vegan diets may be potentially useful in the control of metabolic aberrations associated with cardio-vascular diseases. The vegan, however, must be careful not to get deficient in certain key nutrients,” said Dr Priti Rishi Lal, assistant professor at Lady Irwin College, which collaborated with Max Hospitals for the study.

“The diet can be promoted in people with heart disease or with elevated lipid levels. However, everyone should seek guidance from a nutritionist when following the diet because it may result in deficiencies of micronutrients like calcium and B12, for which supplements have to be taken,” said Dr Samaddar.

However, she thinks long-term adherence may be a problem. “It is difficult in the long-term because alternatives like almond or soy milk are not very readily available, and when they are they cost more than regular milk. Also, getting a vegan dish when you go to restaurants is almost impossible in India. So, the diet may stick with only a select few,” said Dr Samaddar.

“These findings are preliminary and are only indicative of the benefits of a vegan diet as the sample size was too small. We will be replicating the study in a bigger group this year and follow them for a longer duration of time,” said Dr Samaddar.

The study included 60 people – 30 following the vegan diet and 30 following a low-fat diet – and monitored them for three months. Of these, 25 study subjects left it midway.

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products, and foods that contain these products.

As meat and dairy is cut from diet, vegans have to include protein in the form of lentils, soya, beans

Daily intake of milk can be replaced with soy or almond milk

People following the diet must be cautious about nutritional deficiencies and follow the advice of a nutritionist

First Published: Jun 28, 2017 10:44 IST