Vegan Or Mediterranean Diet Which Is Better For Heart Health?


Vegan Or Mediterranean Diet Which Is Better For Heart Health?A healthy diet can help to reduce your risk of heart disease. shutterstock

Cardiovascular disease is responsible for more than 30% of the total number of deaths worldwide, and every year more people are being diagnosed with the condition. In 2015, more than 85m people in Europe were living with cardiovascular diseases.

But although the total number of people who suffer with cardiovascular disease increases, the number of those who die from heart and circulatory diseases is in steady decline. This is because treatment options, quality of care and access to healthcare have improved considerably since the middle of the previous century.

Even though this is definitely a positive sign, it means that more and more people are living with cardiovascular disease – which can seriously impact quality of life and puts people at risk of sudden death.

In the UK alone, healthcare costs relating to heart and circulatory diseases are estimated at £9 billion each year – while overall, the cost to the EU economy is close to £200 billion a year. It makes sense then that cardiovascular disease prevention is considered to be the number one target for many national healthcare services around the globe.

Prevention includes encouraging people to eat a healthier diet, become more physically active and stop smoking. All three can provide multiple benefits – reducing risk for a range of diseases and conditions and improving quality of life.

Diets for a healthy heart

For many people facing a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, diet is probably one of the first things they might look to tackle. There are a number of healthy diets around – many of them associated with regions or countries, such as the New Nordic – which promotes eating root vegetables, cabbage, apples, berries, fish and game among other things – the Japanese – which advocates the consumption of rice, cooked and pickled vegetables, fish, meat and soy beans – and the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet is a balanced diet, promoting the consumption of vegetables and fruits in addition to oily fish, olive oil, red wine, lean meats, nuts, and low-fat dairy products. It has been known since the late 1950s that it does offer cardioprotective benefits and several large and not so large studies have confirmed these findings since.

Then there is the vegan diet – a plant-based, meat-free diet, which does require abstaining from eggs, dairy, and honey too. In regards to cardiovascular disease protection, the available evidence is limited. However, what we know suggests that long-term vegans have lower total cholesterol than non-vegans.

What works best?

Our team recently explored the benefits of several regional and novel diets – including the New Nordic diet, the Mediterranean diet, the vegan diet and nitrate-rich ones – which are said to directly improve heart health. We looked into their cardiovascular effects both in the short and longer-term.

In a recent study we compared the short-term effects of the Mediterranean and the vegan diet. Our findings suggest that, at least in the short-term, the Mediterranean diet improves significantly the availability of nitric oxide in our veins and arteries – which is important to maintain the good health of our vascular system. Nitric oxide is severely affected by the ageing process and is strongly related to the development of cardiometabolic diseases. So, the observed greater nitric oxide availability is very positive news.

Vegan Or Mediterranean Diet Which Is Better For Heart Health?A balanced diet will help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Shutterstock

Our study also found that the vegan diet offers benefits in the reduction of cholesterol levels. On the other hand, we did find that participants who followed the vegan diet appeared to also have a reduction in a number of important micro-nutrients – such as B12 vitamin and iodine. This is despite us providing B12 supplements to participants.

This is a serious finding: micro-nutrients are vitamins and minerals that our body needs in small quantities to function properly, while both iodine and B12 deficiency pose an important health risk.

Our recommendation

Research has showed repeatedly that balanced diets are often more beneficial in the longer term – and our work strongly points to the same direction. In any case, it is probably best to avoid adopting diets that follow popular trends – and make a choice based on your individual needs.

It is also important to be well informed before making any dietary changes. This is because in some cases, a change in diet does lead to deficits of micronutrients and vitamins. This can create a health risk, which surpasses the benefits.

So as far as reducing cardiovascular disease risk, our work suggests that it is probably better to look for a solution in the Mediterranean diet.

This means eating more plant-based foods – such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. You should also look to replace butter with healthy fats such as olive oil, as well as using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavour foods. Red meat should be limited to a few times a month, but you can eat fish and poultry at least twice a week. Enjoying meals with family and friends is also a big part of the Mediterranean diet and culture – as is drinking red wine in moderation (though this part is optional).The Conversation

About The Author

Markos Klonizakis, Reader (Clinical Physiology), Sheffield Hallam University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

foodAuthor: Michael Greger M.D.
Binding: Hardcover
  • Flatiron Books

Brand: Flatiron Books
Studio: Flatiron Books
Label: Flatiron Books
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Manufacturer: Flatiron Books

Buy Now
Editorial Review:

New York Times Bestseller

“This book may help those who are susceptible to illnesses that can be prevented.”
―His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“Absolutely the best book I’ve read on nutrition and diet”
–Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones Solution

From the physician behind the wildly popular Nutrition Facts website, How Not to Die reveals the groundbreaking scientific evidence behind the only diet that can help prevent and reverse many of the causes of disease-related death.

In How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger, the internationally-renowned nutrition expert, physician, and founder of, examines the fifteen top causes of premature death in America--heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson's, high blood pressure, and more--and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches to help prevent and reverse these diseases, freeing us to live healthier lives.

The simple truth is that most doctors are good at treating acute illnesses but bad at preventing chronic disease. The fifteen leading causes of death claim the lives of 1.6 million Americans annually. This doesn't have to be the case. By following Dr. Greger's advice, all of it backed up by strong scientific evidence, you will learn which foods to eat and which lifestyle changes to make to live longer.

History of prostate cancer in your family? Put down that glass of milk and add flaxseed to your diet whenever you can. Have high blood pressure? Hibiscus tea can work better than a leading hypertensive drug-and without the side effects. Fighting off liver disease? Drinking coffee can reduce liver inflammation. Battling breast cancer? Consuming soy is associated with prolonged survival. Worried about heart disease (the number 1 killer in the United States)? Switch to a whole-food, plant-based diet, which has been repeatedly shown not just to prevent the disease but often stop it in its tracks.

In addition to showing what to eat to help treat the top fifteen causes of death, How Not to Die includes Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen -a checklist of the twelve foods we should consume every day.Full of practical, actionable advice and surprising, cutting edge nutritional science, these doctor's orders are just what we need to live longer, healthier lives.

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure

foodAuthor: Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.
Binding: Paperback
  • Great product!

Studio: Avery
Label: Avery
Publisher: Avery
Manufacturer: Avery

Buy Now
Editorial Review: The New York Times bestselling guide to the lifesaving diet that can both prevent and help reverse the effects of heart disease

Based on the groundbreaking results of his twenty-year nutritional study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn illustrates that a plant-based, oil-free diet can not only prevent the progression of heart disease but can also reverse its effects. Dr. Esselstyn is an internationally known surgeon, researcher and former clinician at the Cleveland Clinic and a featured expert in the acclaimed documentary Forks Over Knives. Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease has helped thousands across the country, and is the book behind Bill Clinton’s life-changing vegan diet.

The proof lies in the incredible outcomes for patients who have followed Dr. Esselstyn's program, including a number of patients in his original study who had been told by their cardiologists that they had less than a year to live. Within months of starting the program, all Dr. Esselstyn’s patients began to improve dramatically, and twenty years later, they remain free of symptoms.

Complete with more than 150 delicious recipes perfect for a plant-based diet, the national bestseller Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease explains the science behind the simple plan that has drastically changed the lives of heart disease patients forever. It will empower readers and give them the tools to take control of their heart health.

Heart Solution for Women: A Proven Program to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease

foodAuthor: Mark Menolascino M.D.
Binding: Hardcover
Studio: HarperOne
Label: HarperOne
Publisher: HarperOne
Manufacturer: HarperOne

Buy Now
Editorial Review:

Heart disease remains the number one killer of women, outpacing breast cancer, diabetes, and stroke, with one in four women receiving a diagnosis in her lifetime. And the problem is only getting worse.

Dr. Mark Menolascino has been on the front lines of cardiac research for most of his life, running a highly successful clinic where he takes a holistic, personalized approach to reversing disease and jump-starting health. Most of his patients are women struggling with symptoms and illnesses that stem from the most important, life-giving organ in the body: the heart. In Heart Solution for Women, Dr. Menolascino explores the many ways our hearts are the pathway to overall health. While the classic risk factors for heart disease—obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stress, and poor diet—are critical components, symptoms of the disease manifest differently in women’s bodies and can go misdiagnosed for years. They include depression, anxiety and panic attacks, poor sleep, and widespread pain, and can be masked during pregnancy, post-pregnancy, and menopause only to appear with great force later in life.

Featuring the latest research on gut, brain, and hormone health and including answers to the most common heart-health misunderstandings, Heart Solution for Women finally gives women the tools to succeed, feel great in their bodies, and add years to their lives.


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email