Plant-based swaps may cut risks

Replacing meat and dairy with whole grains, beans, nuts and olive oil may significantly reduce cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a recet review into the impact of diet on health.

Researchers in Germany analysed 37 published studies to assess the benefits of switching from red and processed meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products to plant-based foods such as beans, nuts, whole grains, oils, fruit and vegetables. They found marked reductions in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and a lower risk of dying from any cause during the periods covered by the studies, especially when red and processed meats were replaced with plant-based foods.

The risk of cardiovascular disease was about 25% lower when 50g of processed meat a day was replaced with nuts or legumes. Meanwhile, replacing one egg a day with 25g of nuts was linked to a 17% lower risk. The authors calculated a reduction in type 2 diabetes of about 20% when 50g of processed meat daily was swapped for up to 28g of nuts, or when a daily egg was replaced with 30g of whole grains or 10g of nuts.

Replacing processed meat, which was often red meat in the form of ham, bacon, sausages or hotdogs, was linked to the clearest health benefits. According to the study, switching 50g of processed meat a day for 28-50g of nuts was associated with a 21% lower risk of death from any cause in the studies assessed.

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