Not all plant-based diets offer health benefits, it seems. According to a new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, people who eat more healthy plant-based foods have a lower risk of stroke than plant-based eaters with lower-quality diets.
The researchers found that a healthy plant-based diet – defined as one rich in leafy greens, whole grains, and beans, and low in refined grains, potatoes, and added sugars – can lower the risk of stroke by 10 per cent.
Evidence also suggests that healthy plant-based diets lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other diseases. Few studies, however, have looked at whether plant-based diets guard against stroke.
About the latest research, findings
In the new study, researchers analyzed health data from 209,508 U.S. women and men who were followed for more than 25 years. The participants did not have cardiovascular disease at the start of the study.
Participants were scored on diet quality based on the healthfulness of the plant-based foods that they ate. People who ate no more than one serving of meat or fish per month were classified as “vegetarians”.
The researchers found that a healthy plant-based diet was associated with a modest reduction in risk of ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked.
In a separate analysis, the researchers did not find a link between a “vegetarian diet” and lowered risk of stroke, although they noted that the number of study participants classified as vegetarians was small.
The researchers suggested that this result – as well as inconsistent results in prior studies looking at plant-based diets and stroke risk – may in part be explained by a high proportion of low-quality plant-based foods in participants' diets.
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