The number of obese children in the United States is growing every day. Obesity puts children at a high risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that over two-thirds of obese children have at least one risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides (another type of blood fat). A study recently published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that a plant-based meal plan may help lower the risk of heart disease in obese children. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio looked at a group of obese children who had high cholesterol levels. The children were asked to follow either a plant-based eating plan or the American Heart Association’s (AHA) plan, which is low in fat, sodium (salt), sugar, red meats, and processed foods.
The children on the plant-based meal plan ate plenty of plants and whole grains, no animal products, and limited amounts of avocado and nuts. Both groups had weekly, two-hour long nutrition sessions. At the end of the four-week study, the children in the plant-based group had lower body mass index (BMI) and weight, smaller waist and arm measurements, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels. They also had better levels of the myeloperoxidase and C-reactive protein, which are markers for heart disease. Children in the AHA group had improvements in weight, arm and waist measures, and myeloperoxidase only. This study suggests that a plant-based meal plan may be the answer to helping obese children lower their risk of getting heart disease as an adult. The researchers hope that these study results will make way for more affordable plant-based foods.