Study: Vegan Diets Can Improve Cardiovascular Health Within Two Months

A new study by Stanford Medicine has explored the effects of vegan diets on cardiovascular health over an eight-week period.

The study took 22 pairs of identical twins without cardiovascular disease, placing one twin from each pair on a balanced omnivorous diet and the other on a vegan diet. For the first four weeks, the participants received meals from a delivery service; for the final four, they prepared their own meals. A registered dietitian was on call to give nutritional advice and suggestions.

“Most of us would benefit from going to a more plant-based diet.”

The results show considerable health benefits to a vegan diet, particularly regarding low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. LDL-C transports cholesterol around the body, and should ideally be below 100 mg/DL.

At the beginning of the study, participants in the vegan group had LDL-C levels of 110.7 mg/DL, which dropped to a healthy level of 95.5 mg/dL by the end of the study. The omnivore group saw a much smaller reduction, from 118.5 mg/dL to 116.1 mg/dL. The vegan group also saw their fasting insulin drop by around 20%, reducing their risk of diabetes, and lost on average 4.2 pounds more than the omnivore group.

Plant-based meals the default option in NYC hospitals
Image: @defaultveg on Instagram

“Accessible to anyone”

The benefits of plant-based diets for cardiovascular health have been widely demonstrated, with a recent meta-analysis of 37 publications concluding that replacing animal products with plant foods is “beneficially associated with cardiometabolic health and all-cause mortality”.

Studies have also found numerous other health benefits associated with plant-based diets, including slowing down the aging process, reducing the risk of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy, and combating obesity.

“Our study used a generalizable diet that is accessible to anyone, because 21 out of the 22 vegans followed through with the diet,” said the Stanford study’s senior author, Christopher Gardner. “This suggests that anyone who chooses a vegan diet can improve their long-term health in two months, with the most change seen in the first month. Based on these results and thinking about longevity, most of us would benefit from going to a more plant-based diet.”

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