Swapping animal protein for plant-based protein could lead to a reduction in the three main cholesterol markers for cardiovascular disease prevention, a new study suggests.
Substituting one to two servings of animal-based proteins with vegan sources of protein every day - primarily soy, nuts, and pulses - has been found to reduce the main cholesterol markers by five percent.
The study was led by Dr. John Sievenpiper of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
It looked at the impact of replacing animal protein with plant protein of three key markers for cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL or 'bad' cholesterol); non-high density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C, or total cholesterol minus HDL or healthy/good cholesterol); and apolipoprotein B.
Dr. Sievenpiper, a clinician scientist with the hospital's Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Center, led a systematic review and meta-analysis of 112 randomized control trials, in which people replaced animal proteins with vegan ones in their diets for at least three weeks.
"That may not sound like much, but because people in North America eat very little plant protein, there is a real opportunity here to make some small changes to our diets and realize the health benefits," said Dr. Sievenpiper.
He claims the health benefits could be even greater if people combined plant proteins with other cholesterol-lowering foods such as viscous, water soluble fibers from oats, barley and psyllium, and plant sterols.
The doctor also highlighted that a plant-based diet is 'heart healthy'.
He says: "We are seeing a major interest in plant-based diets from Mediterranean to vegetarian diets in the supermarket and the clinic, and this comprehensive analysis of the highest level of evidence from randomized trials provides us with more confidence that these diets are heart healthy."