- NEW YORK, Apr 07 (Reuters
Health) -- Avoiding all animal-based food including dairy products and
eggs -- known as a vegan diet - may reduce blood levels of an amino acid
linked with heart disease, according to a report.
- In a new study, researchers found that in just one week,
blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine dropped by 13% in people who
tried the strict vegetarian diet. High blood levels of homocysteine have
been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.
- The diet was also low-fat, deriving no more than 20%
of calories from fat, and the study subjects took part in moderate exercise,
stress management and avoided tobacco, alcohol, coffee and other caffeinated
beverages. The 40 study subjects also participated in ``spirituality enhancement
sessions,'' the authors report in the journal Preventive Medicine.
- ``Our results suggest that broad-based lifestyle interventions
favorably impact homocysteine levels,'' report Dr. David J. DeRose and
colleagues from the Lifestyle Center of America in Sulphur, Oklahoma, a
facility dedicated to addressing chronic illnesses through alternative
medicine or lifestyle changes.
- About 63% of study subjects had diabetes, 60% had high
blood pressure, 43% had high cholesterol, 25% had heart disease, and 5%
were smokers. All enrolled in the program voluntarily, in an effort to
switch to a healthier lifestyle. People with heart disease had the highest
levels of homocysteine at the beginning of the study, but they also had
the greatest decreases (over 20%), note the authors.
- Increasing intake of folic acid is known to decrease
homocysteine levels, which may partly explain the drop seen in the new
study. The participants had a daily intake of folate (folic acid is a form
of folate) of 480 micrograms. In comparison, the average man in the US
over age 20 has an intake of about 301 micrograms and women over 20 have
an average intake of 226 micrograms.
- The findings suggest -- but do not prove -- that a vegan
diet may help reduce heart risk factors, said study co-author Joshua Muscat
in an interview with Reuters Health.
- ``It indicates that a vegan diet may be helpful in lowering
homocysteine levels, which is a risk factor for coronary heart disease,
but it's not a controlled clinical trial in any sense,'' said Muscat, a
research scientist at the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, New York.
``While the evidence is certainly intriguing, it can't be considered a
means to lowering homocysteine levels.'' The American Health Foundation
is a nonprofit institute that focuses on disease prevention through diet
- The findings do indicate that multiple lifestyle changes
can reduce the risk of chronic disease, Muscat said.
- SOURCE: Preventive Medicine 2000;30:225-233.
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