There are many reasons why people may adopt a vegan diet, such as animal welfare, sustainability or to lose weight. Another reason that’s often touted is that vegan diets are good for your heart, and can not only prevent heart disease, but even reverse it.
But as our latest review found, this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, we found that there is currently little evidence to suggest a vegan diet protects the heart, or can reverse heart disease.
The good and the bad
This isn’t to say that vegan diets don’t have benefits. Large amounts of whole grains, alongside fruit and veg, means that vegans consume more fibre than omnivores (people who eat meat products, alongside fruit and vegetables). And research shows people who eat a high fibre diet are less likely to develop heart disease.
Eating lots of fruit and veg also means consuming plenty of phytonutrients, which are natural chemicals found in plants. Some research suggests these have inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may help prevent damage to cells in the body. Since vegans eat more fruit and veg on average, they should benefit more.
And a vegan diet is linked to a host of other health advantages that should benefit heart health, including a lower weight, lower blood pressure and lower levels of bad cholesterol.
But unless it’s carefully constructed, a vegan diet can easily lack vital nutrients. For example, vegan diets may contain lower amounts of certain omega-3 fatty acids, which are easily found in seafood. This may mean vegans aren’t getting the heart benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, such as lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart attacks.