Lower cholesterol with a plant-based diet, study says
An analysis of many small randomized controlled trials found that being a vegetarian or vegan reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in adults.
Only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables, which are a key pathway to good health. And according to a new study, there’s a distinct benefit for anyone diagnosed with high cholesterol. Researchers looked at levels of LDL, or low-density lipoproteins — often called “bad” cholesterol because a buildup can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. In study particpants, LDL levels dropped 10% and total cholesterol declined 7% for people following a plant-based diet when compared with those who eat both meat and plants, the study found. “This corresponds to a third of the effect of taking cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins, and would result in a 7% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease in someone who maintained a plant-based diet for five years,” said lead author Dr. Ruth Frikke-Schmidt, professor of clinical biochemistry and chief physician at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark. “Importantly, we found similar results across continents, ages, different ranges of body mass index, and among people in different states of health,” Frikke-Schmidt said in a statement. “If people start eating vegetarian or vegan diets from an early age, the potential for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease caused by blocked arteries is substantial.” The analysis was based on results from 30 randomized clinical trials, with over 2,300 of them published between 1982 and 2022. Those studies investigated the impact of vegetarian or vegan diets on all types of cholesterol and apolipoprotein B (apoB), a protein in blood considered to be a good measure of how much bad fat and cholesterol is in the body. The meta-analysis is the first to focus specifically on the effect of diet on concentrations of apoB, the authors said. Results showed being vegan or vegetarian was associated with a 14% reduction in apolipoprotein B levels. “This large analysis supports what we already know: that including more plant-based foods in your diet is good for your heart,” Tracy Parker, a senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation in Birmingham, said in a statement. She was not involved with the study. However, the study also highlighted that the impact of diet on cholesterol may be limited for people who “inherit the tendency for their livers to produce too much cholesterol, meaning that high cholesterol is more strongly influenced by our genes (DNA) than by our diet,” said Robert Storey, professor of cardiology at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, in a statement. “This explains why statins are needed to block cholesterol production in people who are at higher risk of, or have already suffered from, a heart attack, stroke or other illness related to cholesterol build-up in blood vessels,” said Storey, who was not involved in the study. Statin treatment is superior to plant-based diets in reducing fats and cholesterol levels, Frikke-Schmidt said in a statement. “However, one regimen does not exclude the other, and combining statins with plant-based diets is likely to have a synergistic effect, resulting in an even larger beneficial effect,” she added. Expert tips on starting a plant-based diet Anyone considering becoming a vegetarian or vegan should be sure it is well planned to include enough iron, iodine, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, said registered dietitian Duane Mellor, a senior teaching fellow at Aston University’s Medical School in Birmingham, UK. “If someone is thinking about making a dietary change, it can be useful to discuss these with a health professional and perhaps a dietitian so that it is designed to be nutritionally adequate, help address their health concern and ideally be enjoyable,” said Mellor, who was not involved in the study. In addition, people who transition to a plant-based diet should still be mindful about the kinds of foods they’re consuming. “Not all plant-based diets are equal,” said Aedin Cassidy, professor and director for interdisciplinary research at the Institute for Global Food Security in Queen’s University Belfast, in a statement. Only healthy plant-based diets, characterized by fruits, vegetables and whole grains, improve health, while other plant diets that include refined carbohydrates and processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt do not, said Cassidy, who was not involved in the study. Such foods include the all-popular french fries and fried doughnuts, as well as many other bakery items and sweets. If people have trouble adjusting to a full vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, Parker said, consider trying the Mediterranean diet, which focuses mostly on fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fish, with few eggs and minimal low-fat dairy, and very little meat. “There is considerable evidence that this type of diet can help lower your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases by improving cholesterol and blood pressure levels, reducing inflammation, and controlling blood glucose levels,” Parker said in a statement..Kristina Wong.New York City is sinking under the collective weight of all of its buildings, a new study has found. This gradual process could spell trouble for a city around which the sea level has been rising more than twice as fast as the global rate — and is projected to rise between 8 inches and 30 inches by 2050. What’s more, scientists expect more frequent and extreme rainfall events such as nor’easters and hurricanes due to the human-fueled climate crisis. “We’re a ways off from the ocean simply moving in,” said lead study author Tom Parsons, a research geophysicist at the US Geological Survey. “But we’ve had a couple of major hurricane events with Sandy and Ida in New York where heavy rainfall caused inundation in the city, and some of the effects of urbanization have allowed water to come in.” The paper, published in the journal Earth’s Future, aims to show how high-rise buildings in coastal, riverfront or lakefront areas could contribute to future flood risk and that measures should be taken to mitigate the potentially hazardous impacts. Sinking city risks — and a mystery The researchers calculated the mass of the 1,084,954 buildings that existed across the five boroughs of New York City at the time, reaching the conclusion that they weighed about 1.68 trillion pounds (762 billion kilograms) — equivalent to roughly 1.9 million fully loaded Boeing 747-400s. The study team then used simulations to calculate the effects of that weight on the ground, comparing that with satellite data showing actual surface geology. That analysis revealed the rate at which the city is sinking: “The average is about 1 to 2 millimeters a year, with some areas of greater subsidence that are up to about 4½ millimeters a year,” Parsons said. Subsidence is the technical term for the sinking or settling of Earth’s surface due to natural or artificial causes. A September 2022 study found that 44 of the 48 most populous coastal cities have areas that are sinking faster than sea levels are rising. This latest study’s novel approach is to take into account specifically the weight of New York City’s buildings and how they are contributing to the subsidence of the land beneath them. However, not all of the sinking is due to the buildings. “We could see some correspondence where there’s construction on very soft soils and artificial fill,” Parsons said. “Other places, we see subsidence that’s difficult to explain. And there’s a lot of different causes of it, such as post glacial relaxation that happened after the last ice age, or groundwater pumping.” Some areas of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens are among those that are sinking at a faster than average rate, according to the study. “Some of that seems to correspond with construction projects going on,” Parsons said. “But we also see subsidence on the north end of Staten Island that I can’t figure out an explanation for, and I’ve looked into all kinds of different things — so that still remains a mystery.” Mitigating risk around sinking cities Subsidence can pose an even earlier flooding threat than sea level rise, the research suggests, and not just in New York City. “It’s a global issue. My coauthors from the University of Rhode Island looked at 99 cities around the world, not only coastal but inland as well, and the vast majority of them have subsidence issues,” said Parsons, citing the case of Jakarta, which is sinking so fast that the Indonesian government is planning to build a new capital city elsewhere. “We know that global sea levels are rising and shorelines are changing, and that it is critical to understanding the impact of human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions, on our warming world,” said geophysicist Sophie Coulson, a postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory who was not involved in the study. “This research takes a look at an important human factor that has only recently come into focus — the effect of urban building loads on coastal land subsidence.” The authors, she added, use a clever combination of computer modeling, satellite measurements and GPS data to estimate the short- and long-term sinking rates of different areas of the city and identify the areas most at risk. “New York City is among the most densely populated coastal areas in the world, with a large portion of its critical infrastructure constructed in low-lying coastal areas,” she said. “Understanding how and why the landscape is changing, and identifying areas most vulnerable to flooding is essential for making the right preparations to mitigate future sea level rise.”.Journal of the American College of Cardiology..
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