Vegans show significant differences in their metabolic profiles compared to non-vegetarians, which may help explain their lower risk of chronic disease, according to a recent study by researchers at Loma Linda University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Fred Hutchinson Cancer. Research Center.
Fayth Miles, lead author of the article and assistant professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and School of Medicine, says some metabolites found in significantly lower amounts in vegans likely put them at lower risk for cardiometabolic disease. Vegans showed lower concentrations of metabolites that appear to be associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and inflammation, which were consistently higher in non-vegetarians. This suggests that high consumption of plant-based foods can reduce the risk of metabolic diseases.
“These are very interesting results because they suggest significant and favorable biological responses in vegans, attributable to a plant-based dietary model,” said Miles.
The study on the biology of veganism was published in Nutrientsa journal of human nutrition, February 8, 2022. *
The study used metabolic signatures, which are measurements of 67 metabolites produced in the metabolic process that circulate in the bloodstream. With plasma metabolic signatures obtained from 93 individuals, the study found that the metabolic profiles of vegans versus non-vegetarians are significantly different, with over 60% of nearly 1,000 different biomarkers showing significant differences between the two groups.
Evidence from AHS-2 indicates more favorable outcomes for vegans and other vegetarians, including improved cardiometabolic profiles and reduced risk of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular and general mortality. This study provides evidence for causal links between dietary patterns and disease, showing strong differences between vegans and non-vegetarians at the molecular level.
The authors state that there is a strong association between the vegan dietary model and metabolic signatures relevant to disease prevention and control.
The results of this study concur with the previously reported health-promoting outcomes for vegans. For example, the study found lower levels of several types of fatty acids or other lipid metabolites that evidence suggests are associated with inflammation and insensitivity to insulin.
This study also supports previous AHS-2 findings on higher amounts of beneficial plant compounds in the blood, urine and fat samples of vegans – biologically active compounds believed to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity.
Some metabolites showing differences between the two dietary groups in this study are indicators of dietary intakes or behaviors, while others may have additional biological activity, thus preventing or promoting disease. For example, long-chain saturated fatty acids, acyl carnitines, histidine metabolites, branched-chain fatty acids, and branched-chain amino acids reflect the consumption of meat, dairy, and animal protein or fat, but have also relevance for inflammation and cardiometabolic diseases. Researchers found lower concentrations of these types of metabolites in vegans. Miles says seeing less abundance of these and other metabolite subclasses is interesting because hypotheses can be made as to why vegans aren’t as prone to some of the chronic diseases. Higher metabolites in vegans, on the other hand, can reduce the risk of these diseases through anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Vegans in AHS-2 consume the highest amounts of plant foods and were compared with non-vegetarians to maximize contrast in metabolic profiles. For the purposes of this study, those who never or rarely (less than once a month) ate meat, eggs and dairy products were defined as vegans, and those who ate at least 28 grams of red meat per day were defined as non-vegetarians. , although the majority consumed at least 56 grams.
Looking ahead, Miles hopes to apply this research on a larger scale and identify metabolic and genomic biomarkers that link dietary and lifestyle behaviors with cardiometabolic and other diseases, with a focus on addressing health disparities.
The original version of this story was published in Loma Linda University Health news site.
* Fayth L. Miles et al., “The Biology of Veganism: Plasma Metabolomics Analysis Reveals Distinct Profiles of Vegans and Non-Vegetarians in the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2) Cohort”, Nutrients 14, n. 3 (2022): 709, https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14030709. This study was funded by Loma Linda University Health through a pilot grant awarded to Dr Penelope Duerksen-Hughes (Pilot Funds for Translational and Scientific Research) in support of the Adventist Health Study-2 research. Additionally, the research was supported by the Ardmore Institute of Health and the NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.