Vegetarian and Mediterranean Diets: Both Equally Beneficial for Cardiovascular Health

Diet and nutrition have been long proven to be an important factor that changes the condition of cardiovascular health. Different kinds of diets require consumption of various foods that alter the health of your body. For a long time, the Mediterranean diets have been hailed as the healthiest eating style for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The diet requires regular consumption of fresh produce, nuts, olive oil, whole grains and lean meat. While cutting down on the use of fatty red meat, sugars, and processed foods. The elimination of processed food makes the diet automatically a better way of life for the people suffering from heart conditions.

However, a new study published in the Circulation journal concluded in showing that a vegetarian or more specifically, a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian diet, to be equally as beneficial for maintaining cardiovascular health as a Mediterranean diet.

The study was conducted by four Italian researchers from University of Florence and Careggi University Hospital, to observe how both diets compare to each other in terms of influencing heart health. The researchers recruited 118 clinically healthy adults between the ages of 18-75, with low-to-moderate cardiovascular risk profiles.

Half of the group was directed to follow a traditional Mediterranean diet, while the other half started a Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which required the elimination of all kinds of meat and fish, but included dairy and eggs. Each group followed the diet for three months.

The study was a cross-over comparison study, which meant that the participants switched to the other diets for another 3 months after the following the first one. During the study participants were regularly counseled and advised on the diets they were following.

This included detailed meal plans and a list of foods to include and exclude. During both phases of the study, the participants were screened regularly. For both diets, the researchers advised participants to consume 50-55 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 20-30 percent from fats and 15-20 percent from lean protein.

The findings of the study showed that participants on both diets had lost 4 pounds overall. Also, both the diets were capable of significantly improving the overall cardiovascular health of the participants.

The results of the study are not as shocking because both diets overlapped in many areas, requiring consumption of the same food groups. Both diets allowed the consumption of dairy, eggs, whole grains, produce and nuts; only eliminating meat and fish products.

The vegetarian diet was observed to be significantly more effective in reducing the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) i.e. the bad cholesterol that accelerates plaque buildup in arteries. The Mediterranean diet however reduced triglycerides that increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The researchers concluded the study with a statement from Professor Francesco Sofi (M.D., Ph.D.) who said that “the take-home message from our study is that a low-calorie Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet can help reduce cardiovascular risk about the same as a low-calorie Mediterranean diet.”

The team of the researchers suggests that, even though the study has provided persuasive evidence regarding dietary patterns and cardiovascular health, there is a need for more studies. These studies should study and compare how these two diets affect the cardiovascular risk in patients with a higher heart disease. This would help physicians in the future to better guide their patients about maintaining a healthy lifestyle that benefits their cardiovascular health.