Objective: Many studies have shown that vegetarian diet has beneficial effects on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. However, the effect of vegetarian diet on carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), as well as the association between IMT and duration of vegetarian diet, are still unclear. The present study aims to investigate the influence of duration of vegetarian diet on cardiovascular risk factors, and more importantly on IMT among Chinese vegetarians.
Methods: One hundred and seventy-one Chinese male vegetarians were screened for metabolic profile, cardiovascular risk and carotid IMT. They were compared with 129 age-matched omnivores recruited from a community-based health project. The effects of confounding factors were adjusted by stepwise logistic regression analysis.
Results: Compared to the omnivores, the vegetarians had lower BMI, weight, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Also, the levels of triglyceride, total cholesterol, HDL-Cholesterol, LDL-Cholesterol, ApoA1, ApoB, uric acid, albumin and γ-glutamyltransferase were significantly reduced in vegetarians. Omnivores had significantly higher fasting blood glucose than that of vegetarians. However, there were no differences in fasting insulin, C-reactive protein and HOMA-IR between the two groups. IMT was thinner in the vegetarian group than in the omnivore group (0.59 ± 0.16 vs. 0.63 ± 0.10 cm, P < 0.05). The vegetarians were divided according to duration of vegetarian diet (< 6 years, 6 to ≤ 11 years, > 11 years), those in tertile 1 (< 6 years) and tertile 2 (6 to ≤ 11 years) had shown thinner IMT as compared to the omnivores, and tertile 3 had shown no reduction.
Conclusion: A decrease in multiple cardiovascular risk factors such as BMI, blood pressure and lipid profile was associated with vegetarian diet. Moreover, taking a low-calorie, low-protein, or vegetarian diet might have great beneficial effects on IMT through improved lipid profile, and the beneficial effects appeared to be correlated with the duration of vegetarian diet.