Eating purely plant-based food appears to have benefits not only for the planet, but also for our bodies. In just two months, the heart health of twins who followed a vegan diet improved. Their blood sugar levels also improved considerably and they lost weight.

For their study recruited researchers from Stanford University 22 healthy identical twins to control for genes, upbringing and lifestyle. The twins were divided into two groups. Both were fed a healthy diet with vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The only difference was that one half of the twins got a healthy amount of meat, while the other half ate purely plant-based.

Eight weeks of dieting
During the first four weeks of the experiment, both groups received specially prepared meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also received strict instructions about what snacks they were allowed to have. For the next four weeks, the participants had to continue with their diet, but were allowed to do their own shopping and cooking. “Although weight loss was not discouraged, our diet was not designed for weight loss nor did it include energy restrictions,” Stanford scientist Matthew Landry writes in his paper. “People were told to eat until they had enough.”

Bad cholesterol
The diet turned out to be healthy for everyone. Cardiovascular health also improved among the meat eaters, but the group that only had a plant-based diet experienced the greatest benefits. Not only did their blood sugar levels improve by 20 percent, the amount of bad LDL-C cholesterol also decreased. This protein transports fat molecules through the body, especially cholesterol, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The optimal LDL-C level is below 100mg/dL. The average for the experiment was 118.5 mg/dL for the meat eaters, which dropped to 116.1. In the vegan group it dropped from 110.7 to 95.5 mg/dL.

Identical twins
The twins were not only an interesting, but also a special research group, says nutritional scientist Christopher Gardner of Stanford University. “Not only did this study provide a groundbreaking way to show that a vegan diet is healthier than a conventional omnivorous diet, but the twins were also great to work with. They dressed the same, talked the same and shared a sense of humor that you can only have when you spend a lot of time together.”

Also good for intestinal flora
Ultimately, the conclusions were obvious. “Based on these results and looking at life expectancy, most of us would benefit from a more plant-based diet,” Gardner said. “A vegan diet also has additional benefits, such as healthier intestinal flora and reduced telomere loss, which slows down the aging process in the body.” You don’t have to follow a strict vegan lifestyle for this. “It is more important to add more plant-based foods to our diet.”

Vitamine B12
That is not always easy, the researchers agree. This can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency. People who live a completely vegan lifestyle are therefore recommended to take supplements. However, it should not be a reason not to eat a plant-based diet. “We can no longer ignore the growing body of evidence for the health benefits of a plant-based diet. It concerns weight loss, lower blood pressure, a reduced risk of diabetes and a reduced risk of heart complaints.”

Don’t polarize
And since the health benefits were also observed, albeit to a lesser extent, in the control group, a step towards more plant-based eating would already be good for health. “So let’s avoid overly polarizing views and instead encourage each other to make healthier choices rather than wanting to make an absolute switch to veganism. Then people are more likely to actually change their minds and maintain their adjustments,” the researchers said.

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