The health benefits of a low-fat, plant-based diet have been well established, thanks to pioneers like T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn. The scientific community at large, however, is just starting to scratch the surface when it comes the myriad benefits of this lifestyle—including for at-risk children.
A recent study by the Cleveland Clinic, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, showed that obese children who adopt a healthy vegan diet may lower their risk of heart disease through improvements in their weight, blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity, and high-sensitivity C-reactive, according to a press release.
The four-week study was led by Michael Macknin, M.D., and compared a plant-based vegan diet to the recommended American Heart Association (AHA) diet in 28 obese children between the ages of 9 and 18, all with high cholesterol. One parent of each child also followed the diet plan.
Those on the plant-based diet consumed plants and whole grains, with limited avocado and nuts, no added fat, and no animal products.
As we would expect, the children experienced major improvements in nine areas including BMI, systolic blood pressure, weight, mid-arm circumference, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and insulin, as well as two common markers of heart disease, myeloperoxidase and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.
Alternatively, those on the American Heart Association diet ate fruits, vegetables, whole grains and non-whole grains, limited sodium, low-fat dairy, selected plant oils, and lean meat and fish in moderation. These children experienced improvements in four measures versus nine: weight, waist circumference, mid-arm circumference and myeloperoxidase.
The vegan diet won out.
“As the number of obese children with high cholesterol continues to grow, we need to have effective lifestyle modifications to help them reverse their risk factors for heart disease,” said Dr. Macknin in a press release. “We’ve known that plant-based diets are beneficial in adults in preventing and possibly reversing heart disease. This study shows that the same may be true in children too, though more studies are needed.”
(Photo credit: Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic from Windsor, Canada – “Honeeeeeey, I know WHAT has been eating our blueberries!!!”. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.)