It's plant-based, but could still cause health damage, study warns - The Nation |

A Plant-based diet Eating more than 100 grams of protein can provide many health benefits, but a new study shows that the quality of those foods matters a lot.

While both sugar and potato chips are technically plant-based, consuming them may increase your risk of heart attack and premature death.

The study was published on Monday this The Lancet Regional Health—Europe, Discover Plant-Based Ultra-processed foods Consuming foods like doughnuts, soda and potato chips increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by 5% and premature death by 12%.

Conversely, the study found that replacing plant-based ultra-processed foods with fresh, frozen or minimally processed plants (such as vegetables and fruits) was associated with a 7% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 15% lower risk of death from heart disease.

“Modern plant-based diets can include a range of ultra-processed foods such as sugary drinks, snacks, and sweets, as well as 'plant-based' sausages, chicken nuggets, and burgers made from plant ingredients and marketed as meat and dairy alternatives,” the authors noted in the study.

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The authors added: “We observed that a higher dietary intake of non-ultra-processed foods of plant origin was associated with a lower risk of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events, whereas a higher intake of ultra-processed foods of plant origin was associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events.”

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Nearly 50% of Canadians’ daily calories come from ultra-processed foods. According to the Heart and Stroke FoundationThese foods, such as candy, soft drinks, pizza and potato chips, have been significantly altered from their original state by the addition of salt, sugar, fat, additives, preservatives and artificial colors.

Eating these highly processed foods may lead to Poor overall health qualitysuch as cancer, serious heart and lung disease, mental health disorders, and Early death.

“Ultra-processed foods contain very little whole food, so you're not getting the whole food in the process,” said Carol Dombrow, a registered dietitian and nutrition counselor at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

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“A lot of the important nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber are removed. And then salt and sugar and other additives are added. So what you think you're buying is not a plant-based food. It's not food per se,” she told Global News.

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She added that plant foods like beans and whole grains are very healthy, but it's important to understand their nutritional content when they are packaged or processed.

Ultra-processed plant-based diet

this The Lancet The study acknowledges that while many studies have linked ultra-processed foods to health risks, there is limited evidence on how these foods may influence the relationship between plant-based diets and cardiovascular disease outcomes.

The authors define a plant-based dietary pattern as one that includes little or no eggs, dairy, fish, and meat. They note that this dietary pattern is associated with a lower risk of multiple chronic diseases and has significant environmental benefits.

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“However, plant-based dietary patterns are heterogeneous and can vary widely in dietary composition, type, and quality, suggesting that the potential protective effects of plant-based diets against cardiovascular disease may vary accordingly,” the study states.

Researchers believe that although diets rich in ultra-processed foods are plant-based, they may still pose a risk to health due to the negative effects of their ingredients and processing methods. These foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sodium and added sugars, which can lead to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, obesity and metabolic disorders – all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Click to play video: Study: Ultra-processed foods linked to premature death

Ultra-processed foods linked to earlier death: Study

To further investigate this link, the researchers looked at data from the UK Biobank, a longitudinal study in which more than 118,000 people aged 40 to 69 from England, Scotland and Wales answered questions about their diet between 2007 and 2010. Food groups were divided into plant-based, non-plant-based and animal-based, and further classified as non-ultra-processed or ultra-processed.

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Researchers found that ultra-processed foods of plant origin were associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.

“These findings advance current knowledge, highlighting that a higher intake of plant-based foods may lead to better cardiovascular health outcomes only when based primarily on minimally processed foods, whereas a higher intake of ultra-processed plant-based foods may have deleterious health effects,” the study states.

Take the survey results with a grain of salt

In an editorial published Science Media Centrea team of health experts shared their thoughts on The Lancet paper, highlighting certain concerns about the report.

Authors of the editorial include Sarah Nájera Espinosa, nutrition and climate change researcher in the Department of Population Health, Pauline Scheelbeek, associate professor of nutritional epidemiology and earth health, and Rosie Green, professor of environment, food and health, all affiliated with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

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“Some might get the impression from the first paragraph of the press release that the study only looked at meat substitutes, when in fact it also considered many other ultra-processed foods such as industrial breads, biscuits, sweets, etc,” they said.

For example, in The Lancet While meat alternatives, such as veggie burgers, were classified as ultra-processed foods in the study, they made up just 0.2% of the energy consumed by participants in this category. The main plant-based ultra-processed foods identified included processed baked goods, such as packaged bread, pastries, cakes and biscuits, as well as potato chips and soft drinks.

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Plant-Based Nutrition Tips

The editorial raises another concern about the findings, suggesting that the distinction between animal- and plant-based ultra-processed foods is misleading. They point out that in most studies that look at highly processed foods, if the ultra-processed food category encompasses all products such as cakes, industrial breads and confectionery, a significant portion of plant-based foods would be included in the analysis.

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This is because these products are often made from plant-derived ingredients such as flour, vegetable oils and sugar.

Although many plant-based foods fall into the ultra-processed food category, Dombrow says this diet can be very beneficial to your health if done correctly.

“If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you have to be smarter than the average Canadian because it's more complicated. It's not as simple as picking up a chicken breast or making scrambled eggs,” she said.

“If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you need to choose whole foods, such as beans, lentils, tofu, fruits and vegetables.

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