Monday, July 24, 2017

Not All Plant Foods Are Equal

For years, the mantra has been that eating lots of fruits, vegetables and grains will ward off heart disease, but a new study suggests that choosing the wrong ones may backfire.

The study, of over 200,000 U.S. health professionals, found those who ate plenty of healthy plant foods – such as vegetables, beans and whole grains – did have a lower risk of heart disease.

That was not true, however, if people loaded up on foods that are technically plant-based, but not all that healthy. In fact, diets heavy in pasta, bread, potatoes and sweets appeared just as bad as, if not worse than, diets high in animal products.

“Plant-based foods are not all the same,” said lead researcher Ambika Satija, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston. So it’s crucial that people consider the nutritional quality of the plant foods they choose, she said.

The study did not specifically examine vegetarian or vegan diets, Satija noted. So the findings do not shed light on how those diets affect heart disease risk. But other studies have tied vegetarian and vegan diets to lower risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, according to Dr. Kim Williams, chief of cardiology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“Plant-based nutrition is superior when it comes to most diseases,” Williams said. “But what people don’t always understand is that there are healthy ways to do it, and not-so-healthy ways,” he said. “You can do it wrong.” Williams co-wrote an editorial published with the study in the July 25 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The findings involved three studies that began in the 1980s and 1990s. Every two to four years, the participants gave detailed information on their diets.

The risk of heart attack was lower among people who regularly ate plenty of healthy plant foods, including fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains (such as cooked oatmeal and brown rice) the study found.

In contrast, the reverse pattern was seen among people who ate a lot of less-than-healthy plant foods – like potatoes, refined grains (white bread, pasta and crackers) and sugary fruit juices.

People who loaded up on animal products – such as meat, cheese and butter – also showed a heightened risk of heart disease. But the link between unhealthy plant foods and heart ills was a bit stronger, the researchers noted.

My Take:
I never cease to be amazed at the people at Whole Foods buying really expensive “junk food”. A number of my friends and patients have switched to a “plant-based diet” and are doing a terrible job with their choices. Somehow it is now the in thing to be “plant-based” rather than vegetarian. The absence of animal products can actually increase your risk of heart attack if you substitute refined plant food.

The Bottom Line:
If you want to switch to a plant-based diet, throw out the grains as well. Stick with fruits and vegetables and avoid processed foods. Eat a tomato, not ketchup; an apple, not apple juice. It will be a struggle to get enough protein and you will need to supplement vitamin B12, but it can be done. Use the methylcobalamin form of B12 as it is bio-available.

Source: July 17, 2017 National Institutes of Health

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