Heart Failure Risk Plummets with Plant-Based Diet

Consuming a high amount of fruits and vegetables may be beneficial for heart health compared with other diets.

Consuming a heavily plant-based diet may reduce the risk of heart failure among patients without heart disease, according to a new study presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2017.

Previous studies have shown that diet can play a crucial role in the risk of heart disease, especially atherosclerosis, which is characterized by narrowing arteries and can cause heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Specifically, the new study focuses on whether dietary patterns can impact the risk of heart failure in those with no established heart disease.

In the new study, the authors investigated the effects of 5 different dietary patterns on cardiovascular disease. They found that consuming a plant-based diet reduced the risk of heart failure by 42% over a 4-year period compared with those who did not adhere to the diet.

The authors examined data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, which included 15,569 patients without heart disease 45 years and older. Patients reported their diets using a food frequency questionnaire. During the follow-up period, there were 300 heart failure-related hospitalizations.

According to the study, the authors grouped patients by dietary patterns, including:

  • Convenience (red meats, pastas, fried potatoes, fast food)
  • Plant-based (vegetables, fruits, beans, fish)
  • Sweets (desserts, breads, sweet breakfast foods, chocolate, candy)
  • Southern (eggs, fried food, organ meats, processed meats, sugary beverages)
  • Alcohol/salads (salad dressings, green, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, wine, butter, liquor)

While a plant-based diet was observed to lower heart failure risk, the other diets did not, according to the study.

Greater adherence to the plant-based diet was confirmed to lower the rate of heart failure even when the authors adjusted for other factors, including age, sex, and race, according to the study.

Despite the positive implications, the authors caution that the study was observational and no cause and effect relationship can be proven.

Currently, the AHA recommends that patients eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, beans, and nuts for heart health. These new findings may provide supporting evidence for these guidelines, but further studies are needed to explore the link.

“Eating a diet mostly of dark green leafy plants, fruits, beans, whole grains and fish, while limiting processed meats, saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and foods high in added sugars is a heart-healthy lifestyle and may specifically help prevent heart failure if you don't already have it,” said first author Kyla Lara, MD.