Alecco Philippi Reem Al-Rawi


Introduction: Dietary interventions are modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). In particular, the plant-based diet (PBD), characterized by a higher intake of plant-based foods, has been associated with lower CVD risk. In contrast, the western diet (WD), containing higher intakes of processed and animal products, has been associated with increased CVD risk. This review compares the effects of PBDs and WDs on CVD risk factors including blood pressure (BP), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides.

Methods: A database search was performed in PubMed and Embase (search terms: (“plant-based diet” OR “western diet”) AND “cardiovascular disease” AND (“blood pressure” OR “low-density lipoprotein”)). Articles were checked for eligibility and excluded if they did not meet the inclusion criteria. A total of seven articles were included in the review.

Results: Of the seven studies, four evaluated BP, five analyzed LDL, and four investigated triglyceride levels. Following a PBD, three studies reported a significant decrease in BP, while one determined no significant changes in BP. Additionally, three studies indicated decreased LDL levels. On the other hand, while following a WD, one study indicated increased BP, another showed increased triglyceride levels and two demonstrated increased LDL levels.

Discussion: Three mechanism of action theories may be used to explain the lowering effect PBD have on BP, LDL levels, and triglycerides. I) The overall lower fat intake in PBDs lowers saturated and trans-fats. II) The modest presence of phytosterols in PBDs provides a cholesterol-lowering effect. III) The higher content of soluble fibres in PBDs lower BP and LDL cholesterol. In contrast, WD are high in saturated fats and trans-fats, resulting in greater LDL levels. WDs are also high in sodium, increasing water retention and thus BP.

Conclusion: The review highlights the potential benefits of PBDs and the harmful effects of WDs on CVD risk factors. Findings of this review suggest a shift towards PBDs may be beneficial in interventions aimed at reducing CVD risk factors. However, studies with larger sample sizes and longer intervention durations are needed to fully understand the relationship between diet and CVD risk factors.

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