July 18, 2024

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Processed vegan food can raise risk of heart disease: Study

4 min read

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While many argue that a diet free of animal products is beneficial to one’s health and the environment, a new study suggests the opposite when it comes to people’s heart health.

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Researchers from the University of Sao Paulo and Imperial College London found that ultra-processed vegan foods are bad for the ticker.

Packaged products of drinks, cereals and ready-to-eat items that contain colours, flavours, emulsifiers and other additives are included in the group.

They were found to contain high amounts of sugar, saturated fat and salt, and lacked sufficient vitamins and fibre.

The study, published on Monday in the Lancet Regional Health journal, analyzed the diets of more than 118,000 Brits between 40 and 69 years of age.

The data found that a plant-based eating plan promotes overall heart health but only when that died features fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

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For every 10% increase in plant-based foods, the risk of death from heart disease fell by 20%, according to the study.

But once the freshness is removed from the food and eaters turn to ultra-processed options, the scientists found a 12% increase in heart disease-related deaths.

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“Food additives and industrial contaminants present in these foods might cause oxidative stress and inflammation, further aggravating the risks,” lead study author Fernanda Rauber explained of the composition and processing methods of UPFs, which can lead to higher blood pressure and cholesterol.

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

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Dr. Eszter Vamos, one of the study’s co-authors, pointed out how sneaky marketing of plant-based products contributes to public’s healthy perception of them.

“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,” Vamos noted.

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Replacing ultra-processed plant-based foods with whole foods known to have health and environmental benefits can cut deaths from heart disease by 15% and reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease by 7%, the study found.

The researchers claim to be the first to show that ultra-processed plant foods are linked to an increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

They want nutritional guidelines that promote plant-based diets to include a warning about the packaged food.

“Eating plant-based products can be beneficial, acting as protection against health problems, or it can represent a risk,” researcher Renata Levy said. “It all depends on the level of processing of these foods.”

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