Coronary Heart Disease Risk Higher With Unhealthy Plant Food Diet

Researchers created 3 plant-based diet indices based on the healthiness of specific foods.

Consuming a plant-based diet index (PDI) that is rich in healthier plant foods is associated with a lower risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), but consuming “less healthy plant foods” may actually increase the risk for CHD, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Ambika Satija, ScD, from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues conducted a study to determine the associations between 3 plant-based diet indices and CHD in male and female health professionals in the United States.1

The researchers created the 3 versions of PDI using different grading approaches. An overall PDI included consumption of all plant food while reducing animal-derived food intake. A healthful PDI (hPDI) focused on intake of healthy plant foods associated with improved health outcomes, including whole grains, nuts/legumes, oils, and fruits and vegetables. Lastly, an unhealthful PDI (uPDI) involved consumption of less healthy plant foods such as juices/sweetened drinks, refined grains, potatoes/fries, sweets, and animal-derived foods, known to be associated with a higher risk for certain diseases.

The study population consisted of participants from the following studies: the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) which started in 1975 with 121,701 female registered nurses aged 30 to 55 years; NHS2 which started in 1989 with 116,686 registered nurses aged 25 to 42 years; and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) that started in 1986 with 51,529 male health professionals aged 40 to 75 years. The population sample for the current study included 73,710 participants from NHS, 92,329 participants from NHS2, and 43,259 participants from HPFS.

To categorize participants into one of the three indices, the researchers…

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