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Heart Health in Vegans and Vegetarians

Posted Feb 03 2011 5:10am
Further evidence to follow a Plantarian rather than a Vegetarian or Vegan diet for health reasons is found in a review in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry  Jan 2011 *
The  review summarizes the effect of a habitual vegetarian diet on clinical complications in relation to chemistry and biochemistry. Omnivores have a significantly higher cluster of cardiovascular risk factors compared with vegetarians, including increased body mass index, waist to hip ratio, blood pressure, plasma total cholesterol (TC)  triacylglycerol and LDL-C levels, serum lipoprotein(a) concentration, plasma factor VII activity, ratios of TC/HDL-C, LDL-C/HDL-C and TAG/HDL-C, and serum ferritin levels. 

However in the review, compared with omnivores, vegetarians, especially vegans, have lower serum vitamin B(12) concentration and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels in the tissue membrane phospholipids, which are associated with increased collagen and ADP stimulated ex vivo whole blood platelet aggregation, plasma 11-dehydrothromboxane B(2), and homocysteine levels and decreased plasma HDL-C. 
Increased homocysteine and imbalances in HDL / LDL and omega 6 and 3 levels are factors in meat eaters that are associated with an increased thrombotic and atherosclerotic risk.

The author suggested that vegetarians, especially vegans, should increase their dietary n-3 PUFA and vitamin B(12) intakes.

Leading UK Nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston from Foods for Life Health and Nutrition Consultancy says  "This review will bolster the argument that vegetarian and vegan diets don't grant you automatic immunity from heart disease. Some would deem it pedantic, but to get the full health benefits of vegetarian and veganism one needs to follow a predominantly Plantarian diet based on natural, wholefood plant based principles rich in a natural synergy of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, fibre and essential fats."

"With recent increased availability of vegan sources of omega 3 fats in echium oil and algae there is no need for vegans, vegetarians and plantarians to miss out on high levels of essential fats and these plant based fats have the advantage of avoiding the complications of toxicity, un-sustainability and undesirable saturated fats in fish oil. Chorella is a potential source of vitamin B12 for vegans" she adds.


* Chemistry behind Vegetarianism. Li D Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Zhejiang University, China
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