Study: Plant-Based Diets Improve Cardiac Function, Cognitive Health

March 5, 2021
Jill Murphy, Associate Editor

Heart failure is associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Researchers have found that eating more plant-based food, such as berries and green leafy vegetables, while limiting consumption of foods high in saturated fat and animal products can slow down heart failure (HF)and ultimately lower the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, according to a press release from the Boston University School of Medicine.

HF is associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Changes in cardiac structure and function that precede the appearance of HF are associated with poor cognitive function and cerebral health, according to the study authors.

The adoption of diets—such as the Mediterranean diet (MIND) and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)—characterized by high intake of plant-based foods are among lifestyle recommendations for the prevention of HF. However, dietary patterns that emphasize foods thought to promote the maintenance of neurocognitive health are unclear of how they change in cardiac structure and function.

The MIND diet, with its focus on the consumption of berries and green leafy vegetables while limiting intake of foods high in saturated fat and animal products, was found to positively benefit left ventricular function in the heart, which is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood throughout the body, according to the study authors.

The research team evaluated dietary and echocardiographic data of 2512 participants of the Framingham Heart Study compared their MIND diet score to measures of cardiac structure and function. They observed that a dietary pattern that emphasizes foods thought to promote the maintenance of neurocognitive health also mitigates cardiac remodeling.

Previous studies have highlighted the importance of diet as a modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.

“Our findings highlight the importance of adherence to the MIND diet for a better cardiovascular health and further reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in the community,” said study author Vanessa Xanthakis, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and biostatistics at BUSM and an investigator for the Framingham Heart Study, in a press release.

Xanthakis added that although a healthy diet may not always be easy or fit with a modern lifestyle, people should make an effort to adhere to healthy eating to help lower the risk of disease and achieve better quality of life.

REFERENCE
Plant-based diets improve cardiac function, cognitive health. Boston University School of Medicine. http://www.bumc.bu.edu/busm/2021/02/25/plant-based-diets-improve-cardiac-function-cognitive-health/. Published February 25, 2021. Accessed March 1, 2021.