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Plant-based diet may prolong obese children's life

New York: Obese children who begin a low-fat, plant-based vegan diet may lower their risk of heart disease, new research says.

The risk can be reduced through improvements in their weight, blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity, and high-sensitivity C-reactive, according to researchers.

"As the number of obese children with high cholesterol continues to grow, we need to have effective lifestyle modifications to help them reverse their risk factors for heart disease," said lead researcher Michael Macknin, a staff paediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children's.

"We've known that plant-based diets are beneficial in adults in preventing and possibly reversing heart disease," he added.

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.

Those on the plant-based diet consumed plants and whole grains, with limited avocado and nuts, no added fat, and no animal products.

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.

These children experienced significant improvements in four measures: weight, waist circumference, mid-arm circumference and myeloperoxidase.

This study shows that the same may be true in children too, though more studies are needed.

"Cardiovascular disease begins in childhood. If we can see such significant improvements in a short four-week study, imagine the potential for improving long-term health into adulthood if a whole population of children began to eat these diets regularly," Macknin said.

The study appeared online in The Journal of Paediatrics.

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