Unhealthful plant-based diet can increase heart disease risk


Plant-based diets are said to play an important role in preventing heart disease. This does hold true in most cases, but a team of researchers has found that some types of plant-based diet could do more harm than good.

Another analysis showed that plant-based diets are good for people diagnosed with ischemic heart disease, while a further report recommended the consumption of fruits and vegetables to prevent the onset of coronary heart disease. Now, a new and more comprehensive study brings to light the health benefits and risks of different types of plant-based diet. The research was conducted by specialists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both in Boston, MA. One preliminary consideration for the researchers was that previous studies tended to deem all plant-based diets “vegetarian,” without making a distinction between different kinds of plant-derived foods and their respective benefits or disadvantages. Therefore, the researchers decided to take a more focused approach, coming up with three kinds of plant-based diet. These were:
diets that maximized plant food intake but did not entirely exclude animal-derived nutriments
solely plant-based diets that maximized intake of healthful plant foods (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
plant-based diets consisting mostly of unhealthful plant-derived food (including sweetened beverages, potatoes, sweets, and refined grains)

It was found that participants who had adhered to a healthful plant-based diet – excluding animal-derived products and including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – had a substantially reduced risk of developing heart disease. But the researchers also noted that consumption of unwholesome plant-derived foods, such as refined grains, had a negative impact on the heart.

“When we examined the associations of the three food categories with heart disease risk, we found that healthy plant foods were associated with lower risk, whereas less healthy plant foods and animal foods were associated with higher risk [of heart disease],” says Dr. Satija.

“It’s apparent that there is a wide variation in the nutritional quality of plant foods, making it crucial to take into consideration the quality of foods in a plant-based diet,” adds Dr. Satija.


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