Background: There is increasing evidence that plant based diets are associated with lower cardiovascular risk.
Objective: To evaluate effects of a vegan compared to an omnivorous diet on cardio-metabolic risk factors.
Methods: Meta-analysis of observational studies published between 1960 and June 2018 that reported one or more cardio-metabolic risk factors in vegans and controls eating an omnivorous diet were undertaken. Macro-nutrient intake and cardio-metabolic risk factors were compared by dietary pattern. The Newcastle Ottawa Scale (NOS) was used to assess the quality of each study. The inverse-variance method was used to pool mean differences. Statistical analyses were performed using RevMan software version 5•2 (The Nordic Cochrane Centre, The Cochrane Collaboration, Copenhagen.
Results: 40 studies with 12 619 vegans and 179 630 omnivores were included. From food frequency questionnaires in 28 studies, vegans compared to omnivores consumed less energy (-11%, 95% confidence interval -14 to -8) and less saturated fat (- 51%, CI -57 to -45). Compared to controls vegans had a lower body mass index (-1.72 kg/m2, CI -2.30 to -1.16), waist circumference (-2.35 cm, CI -3.93 to -0.76), low density lipoprotein cholesterol (-0.49 mmol/L CI -0.62 to -0.36), triglycerides (-0.14 mmol/L, CI -0.24 to -0.05), fasting blood glucose (-0.23 mmol/, CI -0.35 to -0.10), and systolic (-2.56 mmHg, CI -4.66 to -0.45) and diastolic blood pressure (-1.33 mmHg, CI -2.67 to -0.02), p<0.0001 for all. Results were consistent for studies with < and ≥ 50 vegans, and published before and after 2010. However in several large studies from Taiwan a vegan diet was not associated with favourable cardio-metabolic risk factors compared to the control diets.
Conclusion: In most countries a vegan diet is associated with a more favourable cardio- metabolic profile compared to an omnivorous diet.