Background: Clinical and epidemiological studies have demonstrated a strong association between eating habits and chronic diseases, particularly cardiovascular events, although not all the mechanisms of action are understood.
Objective: To describe and analyze the cardiovascular risk (CVR) in vegetarians and omnivores residing in Greater Vitória, State of Espírito Santo, Brazil, in the age range from 35 to 64 years.
Methods: To evaluate CVR in the groups, a historical cohort study with 201 individuals was conducted. Sixty seven individuals who had been following a vegetarian diet for at least five years, and who were from Greater Vitória, as well as 134 omnivores participating in the MONICA Project/Vitória matched for socioeconomic class, gender, age and race were included. Biochemical and hemodynamic measurements were obtained in the Cardiovascular Investigation Clinic of UFES. For comparison of proportions, the chi2 test was used, and the Prevalence Ratio was calculated. The CVR was calculated using the Framingham algorithm for the group as a whole, and for separate genders.
Results: The mean age of the group was 47+/-8 years and the mean duration of vegetarianism was 19+/-10 years; the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet was followed by 73% of the vegetarians. Blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, total cholesterol, LDL-c, and triglycerides were lower among vegetarians (p<0.001). HDL-c levels were not different between the groups. According to the Framingham algorithm, vegetarians had a lower CVR (p<0.001).
Conclusion: Unbalanced omnivorous diet with excess animal protein and fat may be implicated, to a great extent, in the development of noncommunicable diseases and conditions, especially in the CVR.