Background: Epidemiologic evidence, reinforced by clinical and laboratory studies, shows that the rich Western diet is the major underlying cause of death and disability (e.g, from cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes) in Western industrialized societies. The objective of this study is to document the effects that eating a low-fat (≤10% of calories), high-carbohydrate (~80% of calories), moderate-sodium, purely plant-based diet ad libitum for 7 days can have on the biomarkers of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Methods: Retrospective analysis of measurements of weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood lipids and estimation of cardiovascular disease risk at baseline and day 7 from 1615 participants in a 10-day residential dietary intervention program from 2002 to 2011. Wilcoxon's signed-rank test was used for testing the significance of changes from baseline.
Results: The median (interquartile range, IQR) weight loss was 1.4 (1.8) kg (p < .001). The median (IQR) decrease in total cholesterol was 22 (29) mg/dL (p < .001). Even though most antihypertensive and antihyperglycemic medications were reduced or discontinued at baseline, systolic blood pressure decreased by a median (IQR) of 8 (18) mm Hg (p < .001), diastolic blood pressure by a median (IQR) of 4 (10) mm Hg (p < .001), and blood glucose by a median (IQR) of 3 (11) mg/dL (p < .001). For patients whose risk of a cardiovascular event within 10 years was >7.5% at baseline, the risk dropped to 5.5% (>27%) at day 7 (p < .001).
Conclusions: A low-fat, starch-based, vegan diet eaten ad libitum for 7 days results in significant favorable changes in commonly tested biomarkers that are used to predict future risks for cardiovascular disease and metabolic diseases.