The four-week study compared a plant-based vegan diet to the American Heart Assoc. (AHA) diet in 28 obese children with high cholesterol between the ages of 9 and 18. One parent of each child also followed the assigned 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. These children experienced significant improvements in nine measures: 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.
Those on the AHA diet consumed 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 significant improvements in four measures: weight, waist circumference, mid-arm circumference, and myeloperoxidase.
"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 Michael Macknin, a staff pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children's. "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."
Children on the plant-based diet reduced their consumption of animal protein from 42 g daily to 2.24 g daily, while also reducing their percentage of calories from fat and saturated fat to 18% and 3.6%, respectively. Children on the AHA diet were to consume less than 30% of their total calories from fat, less than 7% of calories from saturated fat, less than 1500 mg sodium, and less than 300 mg cholesterol.
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