Consuming plant-based fats instead of animal-based fats could reduce the risk of heart disease and other causes of premature death, according to a new study by the American Heart Association.

The study monitored 63,412 women as well as 29,966 men over the course of 22 years; overall there were 20,672 deaths – 4,588 of these from heart disease.

After analyzing the data and the diets of participants, researchers found that those with a higher intake of animal-based fats had a 21 percent higher risk of a premature death. For those with a higher intake of plant-based fats, their risk was 16 percent lower. Additionally, researchers discovered that by replacing animal-fats with plant-based ones, the risk of death from heart disease and other illnesses, dropped 24 to 26 percent.

Nuts, seeds, avocados, and vegetable oils are sources of plant-based fats offered in the report that are healthier alternatives to animal-based fats, such as dairy products, eggs, meat, and fish.

Our results emphasize the importance of the source and quantity of mono-unsaturated fatty acids in the diet – we should eat more mono-unsaturated fatty acids from plant sources and less mono-unsaturated fatty acids from animal sources,” Marta Guasch-Ferre Ph.D., one of the leaders of the study, said in the report.

Furthermore, it’s not just plant-based fats that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, but plant-based protein too. A study from December 2017 noted that replacing one or two servings of animal protein a day with plant-based protein could potentially reduce the risk of heart disease.

“There is a real opportunity here to make some small changes to our diets and realize the health benefits,” stated Dr. Sievenpiper, who led the meta-analysis of the plant-based protein study. “We are seeing a major interest in plant-based diets from Mediterranean to vegetarian diets in the supermarket and the clinic, and this comprehensive analysis of the highest level of evidence from randomized trials provides us with more confidence that these diets are heart healthy.”

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