Eating Vegetables Doesn’t Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease, Really?

Eating Vegetables

The intake of plant-based foods can protect the heart and general health conditions.

The findings of a new study show that young adults can prolong their life by 13 years by eating more vegetables and legumes, whole grains, fruit, and nuts.

The study monitored the dietary patterns of nearly 400,000 British adults, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

However, there are surprising findings from the study. Eating vegetables, especially cooked ones, does not reduce the risk of heart disease .

“Our large study found no evidence of a protective effect of vegetable intake against cardiovascular disease.”

So explains Qi Feng, an epidemiologist at the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford.

Vegetables eaten raw may provide protection against heart disease, but not cooked vegetables.

The researchers also took into account the participants’ lifestyle factors such as physical activity, education level, smoking habits, and alcohol consumption.

Other lifestyle factors that were also monitored were fruit intake, consumption of red and processed meat, as well as intake of minerals and vitamin supplements.

“Our analysis suggests that the protective effect of vegetable intake on cardiovascular risk is most likely due to biases related to differences in socioeconomic conditions and lifestyle,” Feng said.

Vegetables are still needed by the body

Experts in the UK and the US set exceptions to the study’s findings. One of them is Victoria Taylor, a dietitian at the British Heart Foundation .

“This study found that eating more vegetables was not associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular and cardiovascular disease after weighing lifestyle and other factors,” Taylor said.

“But that doesn’t mean we have to stop eating vegetables.”

Naveed Sattar, professor of cardiovascular and metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, also commented on the study.

“There is experimental evidence showing that eating fiber-rich foods such as vegetables can lead to weight loss, and improve risk factors known to trigger heart disease,” said Sattar.

“The current observational study cannot refute the evidence and the study’s conclusions are debatable because the authors made too many adjustments to factors that led to lower vegetable intake.”

“The study results are not surprising,” said Alice Lichtenstein, director and senior scientist at the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University.

“Choosing a single component and simply adding that component to foods, such as vegetables, will not produce the desired effect.”

“One fact over the last decade is that we shouldn’t be looking at a single food or nutrient, but rather an overall dietary pattern.”

Respondents only ate five spoons of vegetables

The study draws on data from the UK Biobank, a longitudinal study of nearly half a million adults in the UK.

At the start of the study, each participant was asked how many raw and cooked vegetables they ate.

The participants’ eating habits were then monitored for more than 10 years to check whether the participants developed heart disease or not.

Participants reported eating an average of five tablespoons of vegetables per day, or about 71 grams.

About 2.5 tablespoons of vegetables eaten are raw vegetables, while the other three tablespoons are cooked.

“That’s a very small number,” said Dr Andrew Freeman, co-chair of the Nutrition and Lifestyle Work Group at the American College of Cardiology.

Dietary guidelines in the UK recommend eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, with each serving about 80 grams or one cup.

Meanwhile, dietary guidelines in the US advise the average adult to eat about 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables per day.

A healthy vegetable intake includes up to 48 tablespoons of vegetables daily.

“If the people in this study ate very few vegetables, what else did they eat and how much food confounded these results?” Freeman said.

Gunter Kuhnle, professor of nutrition at the University of Reading , UK, also has his say.

“People who don’t eat vegetables need to eat something else, and when calculating the health effects of eating vegetables, it’s important to consider what they’re replacing,” Kuhnle says.

“Replacing sugary snacks with carrots is likely to improve health and have a positive effect on cardiovascular risk.”

“That’s not going to happen when we replace whole-grain snacks with carrots.”

“This study is a very interesting study, but it should not be used as a justification for quitting eating vegetables.”

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