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      Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview

      The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

      Oxford University Press (OUP)

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          Abstract

          Evidence from prospective cohort studies indicates that a high consumption of plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains is associated with a significantly lower risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. The protective effects of these foods are probably mediated through multiple beneficial nutrients contained in these foods, including mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, n-3 fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, and plant protein. In dietary practice, healthy plant-based diets do not necessarily have to be low in fat. Instead, these diets should include unsaturated fats as the predominant form of dietary fat (eg, fats from natural liquid vegetable oils and nuts), whole grains as the main form of carbohydrate, an abundance of fruit and vegetables, and adequate n-3 fatty acids. Such diets, which also have many other health benefits, deserve more emphasis in dietary recommendations to prevent chronic diseases.

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          Most cited references 49

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          Effects of a combination of beta carotene and vitamin A on lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

          Lung cancer and cardiovascular disease are major causes of death in the United States. It has been proposed that carotenoids and retinoids are agents that may prevent these disorders. We conducted a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled primary prevention trial -- the Beta Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial -- involving a total of 18,314 smokers, former smokers, and workers exposed to asbestos. The effects of a combination of 30 mg of beta carotene per day and 25,000 IU of retinol (vitamin A) in the form of retinyl palmitate per day on the primary end point, the incidence of lung cancer, were compared with those of placebo. A total of 388 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed during the 73,135 person-years of follow-up (mean length of follow-up, 4.0 years). The active-treatment group had a relative risk of lung cancer of 1.28 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.04 to 1.57; P=0.02), as compared with the placebo group. There were no statistically significant differences in the risks of other types of cancer. In the active-treatment group, the relative risk of death from any cause was 1.17 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.03 to 1.33); of death from lung cancer, 1.46 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.07 to 2.00); and of death from cardiovascular disease, 1.26 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.99 to 1.61). On the basis of these findings, the randomized trial was stopped 21 months earlier than planned; follow-up will continue for another 5 years. After an average of four years of supplementation, the combination of beta carotene and vitamin A had no benefit and may have had an adverse effect on the incidence of lung cancer and on the risk of death from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and any cause in smokers and workers exposed to asbestos.
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            Lack of effect of long-term supplementation with beta carotene on the incidence of malignant neoplasms and cardiovascular disease.

            Observational studies suggest that people who consume more fruits and vegetables containing beta carotene have somewhat lower risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and earlier basic research suggested plausible mechanisms. Because large randomized trials of long duration were necessary to test this hypothesis directly, we conducted a trial of beta carotene supplementation. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of beta carotene (50 mg on alternate days), we enrolled 22,071 male physicians, 40 to 84 years of age, in the United States; 11 percent were current smokers and 39 percent were former smokers at the beginning of the study in 1982. By December 31, 1995, the scheduled end of the study, fewer than 1 percent had been lost to follow-up, and compliance was 78 percent in the group that received beta carotene. Among 11,036 physicians randomly assigned to receive beta carotene and 11,035 assigned to receive placebo, there were virtually no early or late differences in the overall incidence of malignant neoplasms or cardiovascular disease, or in overall mortality. In the beta carotene group, 1273 men had any malignant neoplasm (except nonmelanoma skin cancer), as compared with 1293 in the placebo group (relative risk, 0.98; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.91 to 1.06). There were also no significant differences in the number of cases of lung cancer (82 in the beta carotene group vs. 88 in the placebo group); the number of deaths from cancer (386 vs. 380), deaths from any cause (979 vs. 968), or deaths from cardiovascular disease (338 vs. 313); the number of men with myocardial infarction (468 vs. 489); the number with stroke (367 vs. 382); or the number with any one of the previous three end points (967 vs. 972). Among current and former smokers, there were also no significant early or late differences in any of these end points. In this trial among healthy men, 12 years of supplementation with beta carotene produced neither benefit nor harm in terms of the incidence of malignant neoplasms, cardiovascular disease, or death from all causes.
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              The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on risk for coronary heart disease.

              Many constituents of fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk for coronary heart disease, but data on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and risk for coronary heart disease are sparse. To evaluate the association of fruit and vegetable consumption with risk for coronary heart disease. Prospective cohort study. The Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals' Follow-Up Study. 84 251 women 34 to 59 years of age who were followed for 14 years and 42 148 men 40 to 75 years who were followed for 8 years. All were free of diagnosed cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes at baseline. The main outcome measure was incidence of nonfatal myocardial infarction or fatal coronary heart disease (1127 cases in women and 1063 cases in men). Diet was assessed by using food-frequency questionnaires. After adjustment for standard cardiovascular risk factors, persons in the highest quintile of fruit and vegetable intake had a relative risk for coronary heart disease of 0.80 (95% CI, 0.69 to 0.93) compared with those in the lowest quintile of intake. Each 1-serving/d increase in intake of fruits or vegetables was associated with a 4% lower risk for coronary heart disease (relative risk, 0.96 [CI, 0.94 to 0.99]; P = 0.01, test for trend). Green leafy vegetables (relative risk with 1-serving/d increase, 0.77 [CI, 0.64 to 0.93]), and vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables (relative risk with 1-serving/d increase, 0.94 [CI, 0.88 to 0.99]) contributed most to the apparent protective effect of total fruit and vegetable intake. Consumption of fruits and vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables and vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables, appears to have a protective effect against coronary heart disease.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
                Oxford University Press (OUP)
                0002-9165
                1938-3207
                September 2003
                September 01 2003
                September 2003
                September 01 2003
                : 78
                : 3
                : 544S-551S
                Article
                10.1093/ajcn/78.3.544S
                12936948
                © 2003

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