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Twin research indicates that a vegan diet improves cardiovascular health
A new randomized trial led by Stanford Medicine demonstrates that switching to a vegan diet for just 8 weeks rapidly improves key markers of cardiovascular health. Published in JAMA Network Open, the innovative study enlisted identical twins to control for genetic and lifestyle factors that can skew diet research.
Using Twins to Isolate Diet Effects
While evidence shows vegetarian diets promote heart health, most studies can’t definitively isolate causation. Study author Dr. Christopher Gardner explains factors like genetics, upbringing, and lifestyle choices all vary between subjects and influence health outcomes.

But by analyzing identical twins, the researchers minimized these confounding effects. Pairs of twins share the same DNA and often have similar backgrounds. “They dressed the same, they talked the same and they had a banter between them that you could have only if you spent an inordinate amount of time together,” said Gardner.
Rapid Improvements in Multiple Markers

After just 4 weeks, the vegan group showed significant improvements compared to both their omnivore twins and their own baseline levels:

  • Lower LDL cholesterol
  • Decreased insulin
  • More weight loss

They maintained these advantages through the 8 weeks.

LDL levels dropped over 15 points in the vegans compared to no change in the omnivores. Elevated LDL cholesterol increases heart disease risk, so this marked short-term reduction with plant-based eating is notable.

Wider Implications for Public Health

The accessible vegan meal plan proved widely achievable, with 21 of 22 participants sticking to it. As senior author Dr. Gardner observes, “This suggests that anyone who chooses a vegan diet can improve their long-term health in two months, with the most change seen in the first month.”

While an strict vegan diet may not suit everyone, adding more plant-based foods can still drive significant cardiovascular gains. Gardner explains, “What’s more important than going strictly vegan is including more plant-based foods into your diet.”

With heart disease still the #1 global killer, this study shows the power and feasibility of using nutrition to promote public health. “Based on these results and thinking about longevity, most of us would benefit from going to a more plant-based diet,” Gardner concludes.

Key Takeaways
  • Among identical twins, a vegan diet rapidly improved LDL cholesterol, insulin levels and weight compared to an omnivore diet – demonstrating the diet itself, not genetics, caused the changes.
  • 21 of 22 participants stuck to the accessible vegan meal plan, indicating the approach is practical for the general public to implement.
  • Study authors urge people to incrementally shift toward plant-based eating to realize cardiovascular gains – every bit counts for health.

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© 2023, Brownricebandit LLC. All rights reserved.

© 2023, Brownricebandit LLC. All rights reserved.