Objective: This study was undertaken to determine if African-American strict vegetarians (vegans) exhibit lower blood pressure (BP) and a more favorable serum lipid profile than their lacto-ovo vegetarian (LOV) counterparts, and if plasma ascorbic acid (AA) concentrations could explain any group differences in these cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.
Methods: Habitual dietary intake, anthropometric characteristics, blood pressure, and blood lipids and ascorbic acid concentrations were determined in African-American study participants (male vegans, n = 14, age = 45.6 years; male LOV, n = 49, age = 49.8; female vegans, n = 31, age = 51.1, female LOV, n = 94, age = 52.1) recruited from Seventh-Day Adventist Churches in several cities in the northeastern United States.
Results: Body mass index (BMI) was significantly lower in the vegans (24.7 +/- 1.9 kg/m2) compared to LOV (26.4 +/- 0.45 kg/m2). There were no diet or gender differences in BP. Serum total cholesterol (3.75 +/- 0.12 vs. 4.51 +/- 0.10 mmol/L), LDL-cholesterol (2.06 +/- 0.13 vs. 2.65 +/- 0.09 mmol/l), and triglycerides (0.94 +/- 0.07 vs. 1.17 +/- 0.04 mmol/L) were significantly (p < 0.05) lower in vegans compared to LOV, but there were no dietary group differences in HDL-C. The ratio of total to HDL-cholesterol was significantly lower in vegans than in LOV (3.0 +/- 0.13 vs. 3.7 +/- 0.13). There were no dietary group differences in plasma AA concentrations. However, in the entire sample, plasma AA was inversely associated with BP (SBP: r = -0.46, p < 0.001, DBP: r = -0.32, p < 0.001), but unrelated to the serum lipid concentrations.
Conclusion: African-American vegans exhibit a more favorable serum lipid profile than lacto-ovo-vegatarians and plasma AA is inversely related to BP in African-American vegetarians but does not explain any of the differences in CVD risk factors between vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians.