Vegan diet - which excludes all kinds of animal products - can lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, a study claims.
The immediate health benefits of a plant-based diet, like weight loss, lower blood pressure, and improved cholesterol, are well documented in controlled studies, said Susan Levin, from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in the US.
"Our goal with studying plasma lipids throughout the lifespan is to capture the net risk reduction of using a vegetarian diet to control lipid levels. We hope to empower patients with new research about the long-term cardiovascular health benefits of a vegetarian diet, which include a reduced risk of a heart attack, stroke, and premature death," she added.
Researchers found that a plant-based vegetarian diet lowers total cholesterol as well as LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein)levels.
The strong correlation between vegetarian diets and lower cholesterol levels may be due to the association a plant-based diet has with a lower body weight a reduced intake of saturated fat, and an increased intake of plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, which are naturally rich in components such as soluble fibre, soy protein, and plant sterols, they said.
The greater risk reduction for total, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels observed in the longitudinal studies is likely due to long-term adherence to plant-based eating patterns and changes in body composition, researchers said.
The team conducted a dietary review of 49 observational and controlled studies.
The study was published in the journal Nutrition Reviews.