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Vegan diets high in processed food could lead to heart disease and death


Directly above shot of food on table

Not all vegan food is healthy (Picture: Getty/500px Prime)

Ultra-processed vegan foods could increase the risk of death from heart disease.

In recent years, plant-based diets have soared in popularity, with many studies highlighting their health benefits.

However, a new study by Sao Paulo University and Imperial College London has revealed that vegan diets high in ultra-processed meat-free food increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by 5%, and the risk of death from CVD by 12%.

CVD is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels, and can lead to heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

Vegan food covers a whole range of products, from raw fruit and vegetables to plant-based meat alternatives. However, many other meat-free products, including biscuits, chips and crisps, can also be considered plant based, or vegan.

To determine the effects of such highly-processed foods on CVD risk, the team analysed more than 118,000 people between the ages of 40 and 69 and asked questions about their diet over three years. 

They then followed up on participants, on average nine years later, and found those who ate more ultra processed foods (UPF) made from plants had a higher risk of CVD and death.

However, they also found that every 10% increase in non-ultra processed plant-based foods was associated with a 20% reduction in deaths from heart disease.

By swapping plant-based UPFs with fruit, vegetables and other wholefoods, deaths from all other cardiovascular diseases were cut by 15% and the risk of developing those diseases was cut by 7%. 

Meat-free alternatives are growing in popularity (Picture: Getty/Bloomberg Creative)

Lead author Dr Fernanda Rauber said that the UPFs could lead to an increase in blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

‘Food additives and industrial contaminants present in these foods might cause oxidative stress and inflammation, further aggravating the risks,’ she said.

‘Those shifting towards plant-based foods should also think about the degree of processing involved before making their choices.’

Co-author Dr Eszter Vamos, from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, said: ‘Fresh plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and legumes are known to have important health and environmental benefits.

‘While ultra-processed foods are often marketed as healthy foods, this large study suggests that plant-based ultra-processed foods do not seem to have protective health effects and are linked to poor health outcomes.’

Researchers who were not involved in the study pointed out that around half of the plant-based UPFs came from industrialised packaged breads, pastries, buns, cakes and biscuits, and little came from plant-based meal alternatives. 

What is ultra-processed food?

It is generally considered that ultra-processed food (UPF) are foods that contain colours, emulsifiers, flavours and other additives.

They tend to be high in energy, added sugar, saturated fat and salt.

The British Heart Foundation said UPFs include foods like ice cream, ham, sausages, crisps, mass-produced bread, biscuits, carbonated drinks and some alcoholic drinks including whisky, gin and rum.

Dietitian Dr Duane Mellor, a spokesperson for British Dietetic Association said: ‘Many foods that do not contain animal products, which …read more

Source:: Metro

      

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