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Dietary adjustments slow progression of heart disease in vegetarians or near-vegetarians. (Scientific update: a review of recent scientific papers related to vegetarianism).

What if someone is following a vegetarian diet and develops heart disease? Is the fact that the person is vegetarian enough, or are there dietary changes that would help to slow the progression of the heart disease? These are some of the questions a recent study from India set out to answer. Close to 1,000 people with major risk factors for heart disease (like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or diabetes) or who had had a heart attack earlier were studied. Two-thirds of the subjects were lacto-vegetarians.

Unfortunately, we do not have information on the amount of fat, saturated fat, or cholesterol in their diets before this study. All of the subjects were encouraged to follow a standard cholesterol-lowering diet (less than 30 percent of calories from fat, less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat, less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol), to exercise, to avoid smoking and alcohol, and to practice relaxation. In addition, half of the subjects, the intervention group, were encouraged to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, as well as to use oils high in omega-3 fatty acids. After two years, the intervention group weighed less and had lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and lower blood sugar levels than the group following the standard diet. The intervention group also had fewer heart attacks and fewer deaths from heart disease. This study suggests that dietary changes, including eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and oils high in omega-3 fatty acids, can slow the progression of heart disease in vegetarians.

Singh RB, Dubnov G, Niaz MA, et al. 2002. Effect of an Indo-Mediterranean diet on progression of coronary artery disease in high risk patients (Indo-Mediterranean Diet Heart Study): a randomized single-blind trial. Lancet 360:1455-61.
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Author:Mangels, Reed
Publication:Vegetarian Journal
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 1, 2003
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