ABSTRACT Background: There is convincing evidence that vegetarians have lower incidence of coronary heart disease, but there is a debate as to why this is the case. Objective: The aim of the study was to investigate whether a shift from a mixed diet to a lacto-vegetarian diet would lead to a decrease in risk for coronary heart diseases indicated by surrogate markers. Design: Twenty volunteers participated in the study (4 men and 16 women, mean age 44 years, range 27 - 61) from a town in western Sweden. Clinical examinations were performed, blood samples were drawn and dietary survey, i.e. repeated 24-h recalls were carried out before (0 months) and 3, 6 and 12 months after the change from a mixed diet to a lacto-vegetarian diet. A dietician educated the volunteers with regard to the vegetarian dietary regimen, organized and taught the vegetarian cooking courses. Results: The dietary shift lead to an increase in the intake of total carbohydrates and fibre and a decrease in fat, protein and sucrose. The coronary heart disease risk markers body weight, body mass index, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol and low-density lipoptrotein cholesterol decreased significantly. Conclusions: There was a decrease in disease risk markers even though the ratio polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids was unchanged. The main finding in this study is that there was a weight loss, sustained for one year, without any recommendation to decrease the energy intake or any focus on weight reduction.
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