The association between diets that focus on plant foods and restrict animal products and cardiovascular disease (CVD) is inconclusive. We investigated whether cumulative intake of a plant‐centered diet and shifting toward such a diet are associated with incident CVD.
Methods and Results
Participants were 4946 adults in the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) prospective study. They were initially 18 to 30 years old and free of CVD (1985–1986, exam year [year 0]) and followed until 2018. Diet was assessed by an interviewer‐administered, validated diet history. Plant‐centered diet quality was assessed using the A Priori Diet Quality Score (APDQS), in which higher scores indicate higher consumption of nutritionally rich plant foods and limited consumption of high‐fat meat products and less healthy plant foods. Proportional hazards models estimated hazard ratios of CVD associated with both time‐varying average APDQS and a 13‐year change in APDQS score (difference between the year 7 and year 20 assessments). During the 32‐year follow‐up, 289 incident CVD cases were identified. Both long‐term consumption and a change toward such a diet were associated with a lower risk of CVD.
Multivariable‐adjusted hazard ratio was 0.48 (95% CI, 0.28–0.81) when comparing the highest quintile of the time‐varying average ADPQS with lowest quintiles. The 13‐year change in APDQS was associated with a lower subsequent risk of CVD, with a hazard ratio of 0.39 (95% CI, 0.19–0.81) comparing the extreme quintiles. Similarly, strong inverse associations were found for coronary heart disease and hypertension‐related CVD with either the time‐varying average or change APDQS.
Consumption of a plant‐centered, high‐quality diet starting in young adulthood is associated with a lower risk of CVD by middle age