Get inspired with our weekly report on living well, made simple. Sign up for CNN’s Life, But Better newsletter for information and tools designed to improve your well-being.
A comprehensive review found that replacing animal foods such as red and processed meat or eggs with plant-based options such as nuts or legumes may reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The review was published on November 16 Writing in the journal BMC Medicine, she analyzed the results of 37 previous studies, and their results “underscore the potential health advantages of incorporating more plant foods into the diet,” says Sabrina Schlesinger, head of the Systematic Reviews Research Group at the German Diabetes Center. In Dusseldorf, He told CNN.
Schlesinger, who was the lead author on the paper, collaborated with researchers from several German institutions on the paper, which they say is the first systematic review to focus on the broad range of health outcomes associated with replacing animal foods with plants. Food based.
Registered dietitian Duane Mellor, a senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, UK, told CNN that this review “fits the pattern” of “a larger body of information that makes up our dietary guidelines.”
“It adds to a picture that we’re already comfortable with,” added Mellor, who was not involved in this research.
Previous studies have already indicated some health benefits from plant-based diets. A May study found that total cholesterol was reduced by 7% in people on a plant-based diet compared to those who ate meat and plants, while an August 2019 study suggested that eating more plants and less meat is associated with a longer life and a lower risk of cancer. Risk of cardiovascular disease.
This latest review noted a 27% reduction in overall heart disease cases when 50 grams (1.8 ounces) of processed meat per day was replaced with 28 grams to 50 grams (1 ounce to 1.8 ounces) of nuts per day, and 23 grams of tree nuts. The percentage of reduction when replacing meat with the same amount of legumes.
A 22% reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes was also associated with replacing 50 grams of processed meat per day with 10 to 28 grams of nuts per day.
The review also noted that replacing butter with olive oil, and eggs with nuts, also indicated a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, although replacing other dairy products, fish, seafood, or poultry did not have a clear association with a lower incidence. With heart disease. is found.
The findings of the new research “do not rely on the results of a single study but systematically summarize all available evidence on this topic,” Schlesinger said, adding that this was the main strength of the review.
While this approach did not yield “completely new” results, she noted the “consistency” of previous studies’ findings, suggesting a “strong level of confidence in the effect estimate.”
The review only monitors correlation and does not show causality and does not check whether there is causality, but it does provide some possible reasons for these trends in the data.
Processed meat, which the World Health Organization defines as having undergone salting, curing, fermentation, smoking or other processes to make products such as sausages, ham or canned meats, contains saturated fatty acids, which potentially increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. the second. Diabetes.
Meanwhile, nuts, legumes and whole grains contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that appear to reduce inflammation.
The study also posits an alternative explanation for the apparent health benefits, which is that people who prefer plant-based foods are more likely to lead a healthier lifestyle overall, although the studies were adjusted to take into account participants’ exercise, smoking, alcohol and eating habits. This effect cannot be excluded.
“We can use this as a piece of information, but we need to use it with intervention studies … to find out why this effect appears,” Mellor said.
Simply replacing animal products with plant-based products does not automatically lead to a healthy diet. The result depends on the products being replaced.
“We need to be careful about words like ‘plant-derived,’ which food manufacturers may use,” Mellor said. “At the end of the day, a bag of sugar is vegan, and this (study) does not mean that.”
The USDA recommends making half your plate fruits and vegetables, varying your vegetables and protein, and making half your grains whole grains. The federal agency also advises choosing foods and beverages that are lower in added sugar, saturated fat and sodium.
In addition to considering the health benefits of different foods, it’s important to take culinary and cultural perspectives into account when making this tradeoff, Mellor said.
“Just because the stats say swapping reduces risk, does that make culinary and cultural sense? If it doesn’t, it’s unlikely to serve as advice.”
“So, replace lentils with processed red meat because you can make sausage out of lentils…that might make sense, but replacing some carrots and some broccoli with red meat doesn’t make sense.”
Anyone considering becoming a vegetarian or vegan should also make sure their diet is carefully planned to include enough iron, iodine, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, Mellor told CNN in May.