Moving to a more plant-based diet can boost cardiovascular health in just two months, a new study of identical twins has shown.

Researchers from Stanford Medicine enrolled 22 pairs of identical twins to look in more detail at the effects of following a vegan diet.

By studying twins, researchers can control for genetics and limit other variables as the twins shared the same upbringing and lifestyles.

The study, which involved twins with no cardiovascular disease, saw one individual from each pair follow a vegan diet and the other an omnivore diet, which includes chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, dairy and other animal-derived foods.

For the first four weeks, participants had meals delivered to them; during the following four weeks, participants prepared their own meals with help from a dietician, keeping a log of everything they ate.

The research team saw the most improvement within the first four weeks of the study.

Significantly lower levels of the ‘bad’ cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), insulin and body weight were seen among the vegan group compared to the omnivore group.

These markers are all linked to better cardiovascular health.

Dr Christopher Gardner, the Rehnborg Farquhar Professor and a professor of medicine, said: “Not only did this study provide a groundbreaking way to assert that a vegan diet is healthier than the conventional omnivore diet, but the twins were also a riot to work with.

“Our study used a generalisable diet that is accessible to anyone, because 21 out of the 22 vegans followed through with the diet.

“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.

“Based on these results and thinking about longevity, most of us would benefit from going to a more plant-based diet.”

The team said that because the participants had healthy LDL-C levels at the start of the study, there was less scope for improvement, whereas greater improvement may be seen in those starting with higher levels of the ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Their findings also showed that those following a vegan diet saw their fasting insulin level drop by 20 per cent, with a higher insulin level putting someone more at risk of developing diabetes.

On average, the vegan participants lost 4.2 more pounds than their omnivore counterparts.

Dr Gardner went on to say: “A vegan diet can confer additional benefits such as increased gut bacteria and the reduction of telomere loss, which slows aging in the body.

“What’s more important than going strictly vegan is including more plant-based foods into your diet.

“Luckily, having fun with vegan multicultural foods like Indian masala, Asian stir-fry and African lentil-based dishes can be a great first step.”

Read the study in JAMA Network Open.

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