According to Cleveland Clinic research, obese children who begin a low-fat, plant-based vegan diet may lower their risk of heart disease through improvements in their weight, blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity and high-sensitivity C-reactive.

The four-week study compared a plant-based vegan diet to the American Heart Association (AHA) diet in 28 obese children with high cholesterol between the ages of 9 and 18. One parent of each child also followed the assigned diet plan.

Those on the plant-based diet consumed plants and whole grains, with limited avocado and nuts, no added fat, and no animal products and these children experienced significant improvements in nine measures: BMI, systolic blood pressure, weight, mid-arm circumference, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and insulin, as well as two common markers of heart disease, myeloperoxidase and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Those on the American Heart Association diet consumed fruits, vegetables, whole grains and non-whole grains, limited sodium, low-fat dairy, selected plant oils, and lean meat and fish in moderation and these children experienced significant improvements in four measures: weight, waist circumference, mid-arm circumference and myeloperoxidase.

Researcher Michael Macknin said that as the number of obese children with high cholesterol continues to grow, they need to have effective lifestyle modifications to help them reverse their risk factors for heart disease, and this study shows that the same may be true in children too, though more studies are needed.

Macknin added that most families in the study were able to follow these dietary guidelines for the four-week study, but researchers found that they had difficulty purchasing the food necessary for a balanced plant-based diet. So they know that plant-based diets are effective, but if they are to be widely used, they need to make access to plant-based, no-added-fat foods easier and more affordable.

The study is published online by The Journal of Pediatrics.

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