Vegan Diet May Protect RA Patients from Heart Attack, Stroke
Posted Jun 05 2010 7:46pm
What we eat is known to affect overall health and the functioning of the body’s systems. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet, which includes olive oil, has a positive impact on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms. But until recently, there has only been anecdotal evidence of changes in resulting in RA symptom improvement.
In addition, rheumatoid arthritis is a significant risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Over 30% of deaths of people with RA are directly attributable to cardiovascular events.
A recent study published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy found that a gluten-free vegan lowered low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and oxidizedLDL (OxLDL) cholesterol, as well as raised the level of natural antibodies that fight the compounds that cause the symptoms of chronic RA.
The study, led by Professor Johan Frostegard of the Rheumatology Unit and Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, involved 66 rheumatoid arthritis patients. The participants were randomly divided into 2 groups – 38 who ate a gluten-free vegan diet, and 28 who ate a well balanced but non-vegan diet for a year. The vegan diet was structured so that protein accounted for 10% of daily energy intake, carbohydrate 60% and fat for 30%.
The researchers analyzed the blood levels of fatty, lipid molecules, cholesterol levels and other factors at the beginning, of the study, at 3 months and at 1 year.
Prof. Frostegard’s team found that the gluten-free vegan diet reduced LDL and OxLDL levels and raised beneficial antibodies. Those consuming the gluten-free vegan diet also had a lowered body-mass index. The other fatty molecules, including high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides remained the same. This group also experienced a modest improvement in the number of swollen joints and a reduction in inflammation.
The control group showed no significant differences in these blood compounds or their RA symptoms.
Prof. Fostegard did acknowledge that this study group was not large enough to draw definite conclusions and that a larger study would need to be undertaken.
There are also additional complications with a diet related study. Getting patients to agree to change their diets for a long period of time is very difficult. Also, it is not possible to conduct a “blinded” trial since the participants know which type of diet they are following.