Can a Plant-Based Diet Really Increase Your Healthspan?

7 min read

MAR 18, 2023 - annie moberg
LONGEVITY

Can a Plant-Based Diet Really Increase Your Healthspan?

7 min read

MAR 18, 2023 - annie moberg
LONGEVITY
The fact that is eating fruits and vegetables is good for you, coupled with other healthy habits, is hardly breaking news. But what you may not know is that opting for all or most foods derived from plants — known as a plant-based diet — over meat, eggs, and other animal products can dramatically increase your healthspan, thereby adding years to your life.
The fact that is eating fruits and vegetables is good for you, coupled with other healthy habits, is hardly breaking news. But what you may not know is that opting for all or most foods derived from plants — known as a plant-based diet — over meat, eggs, and other animal products can dramatically increase your healthspan, thereby adding years to your life.
01

What can a plant based diet do for you?

It’s hardly breaking news: fruits and vegetables are good for you. But did you know that choosing fruits and veggies over animal products may dramatically increase your lifespan? In a study published in July 2020 in JAMA Internal Medicine of more than 416,000 U.S. adults over age 50, replacing animal protein with plant protein reduced the risk of premature death by as much as 24% in men and 21% in women. Results were particularly compelling for adults with a high intake of eggs and red meat who switched to plant-based eating.(1) While what we eat is an incredibly personal choice — and there are many diets that can improve or impair your health — here are five science-backed reasons to consider adding a lot more plants to your plate.
01

What can a plant based diet do for you?

It’s hardly breaking news: fruits and vegetables are good for you. But did you know that choosing fruits and veggies over animal products may dramatically increase your lifespan? In a study published in July 2020 in JAMA Internal Medicine of more than 416,000 U.S. adults over age 50, replacing animal protein with plant protein reduced the risk of premature death by as much as 24% in men and 21% in women. Results were particularly compelling for adults with a high intake of eggs and red meat who switched to plant-based eating.(1) While what we eat is an incredibly personal choice — and there are many diets that can improve or impair your health — here are five science-backed reasons to consider adding a lot more plants to your plate.
02

Your heart will thank you.

Diets high in plant-based foods are linked to heart health, including improved blood pressure and cholesterol profiles. A 2019 study that followed more than 70,000 Japanese adults for an average of 18 years found that higher plant protein intake was associated with lower risk of death from cardiovascular conditions like heart disease. (2) Another study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers examined community health data of more than 10,000 adults from 1987 through 2016. It revealed that people who consumed the most plant-based foods had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 32% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke. (3)
02

Your heart will thank you.

Diets high in plant-based foods are linked to heart health, including improved blood pressure and cholesterol profiles. A 2019 study that followed more than 70,000 Japanese adults for an average of 18 years found that higher plant protein intake was associated with lower risk of death from cardiovascular conditions like heart disease. (2) Another study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers examined community health data of more than 10,000 adults from 1987 through 2016. It revealed that people who consumed the most plant-based foods had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 32% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke. (3)
03

Added immune system support.

Always getting the sniffles during cold and flu season? Eating fruits and vegetables is linked to immune system benefits, lower risk of infection, and a reduction in cancer. (4) This correlation is likely due to the fact that plant-based foods pack plenty of immune-supporting antioxidants, phytochemicals, and vitamins that you can’t get from other foods. In a randomized controlled trial of healthy adults between age 65 and 85, participants who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables to five portions per day saw a significant increase over a four-month period in nutrients vital to immune function, including vitamin C, lycopene, and carotenoids compared with those who stuck to their same diet. (5)
03

Added immune system support.

Always getting the sniffles during cold and flu season? Eating fruits and vegetables is linked to immune system benefits, lower risk of infection, and a reduction in cancer. (4) This correlation is likely due to the fact that plant-based foods pack plenty of immune-supporting antioxidants, phytochemicals, and vitamins that you can’t get from other foods. In a randomized controlled trial of healthy adults between age 65 and 85, participants who increased their intake of fruits and vegetables to five portions per day saw a significant increase over a four-month period in nutrients vital to immune function, including vitamin C, lycopene, and carotenoids compared with those who stuck to their same diet. (5)
04

Healthier, more resilient skin

The same plant-based nutrients that boost immune function have also been shown to prevent skin aging. A review published in May 2020 concluded that a diet rich in plants provides the skin with essential nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E. Plus, antioxidants found in many darker fruits and vegetables may prevent cellular damage that contributes to skin aging. [6]
04

Healthier, more resilient skin

The same plant-based nutrients that boost immune function have also been shown to prevent skin aging. A review published in May 2020 concluded that a diet rich in plants provides the skin with essential nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E. Plus, antioxidants found in many darker fruits and vegetables may prevent cellular damage that contributes to skin aging. [6]
05

Easier weight management

If you’re trying to maintain a certain body weight, there’s evidence to suggest that a plant-based diet can help. During a four-month trial, participants who switched to a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and grains saw an average 18.7% increase in their metabolic rate — meaning they burned calories more efficiently — and an average weight loss of 14 pounds. The results are likely due to the fact that unprocessed whole plant foods have a higher thermic effect—the increase in energy expenditure after a meal — than fats or carbohydrates. In other words, the body has to use more energy to convert these foods into fuel. Plant-based diets are also packed with fiber, so they tend to fill you up without extra calories, which makes it easier to feel satiated from a lower calorie meal. (7)
05

Easier weight management

If you’re trying to maintain a certain body weight, there’s evidence to suggest that a plant-based diet can help. During a four-month trial, participants who switched to a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and grains saw an average 18.7% increase in their metabolic rate — meaning they burned calories more efficiently — and an average weight loss of 14 pounds. The results are likely due to the fact that unprocessed whole plant foods have a higher thermic effect—the increase in energy expenditure after a meal — than fats or carbohydrates. In other words, the body has to use more energy to convert these foods into fuel. Plant-based diets are also packed with fiber, so they tend to fill you up without extra calories, which makes it easier to feel satiated from a lower calorie meal. (7)
06

Lower levels of systemic inflammation

People who eat more plants show lower levels of C-reactive protein, a protein made by the liver in response to inflammation. In high levels, C-reactive protein is linked to a wide array of inflammatory health conditions, including autoimmune disorders, heart disease, and accelerated aging. (8) By keeping inflammation in check, plant-based diets may help slow down the aging process. That’s because systemic inflammation is one of the 12 hallmarks of aging. As we age, inflammation increases throughout our bodies in a process called inflammaging. This inflammation can trigger other hallmarks of accelerated aging and lead to age-related inflammatory conditions like arteriosclerosis and osteoarthritis.
06

Lower levels of systemic inflammation

People who eat more plants show lower levels of C-reactive protein, a protein made by the liver in response to inflammation. In high levels, C-reactive protein is linked to a wide array of inflammatory health conditions, including autoimmune disorders, heart disease, and accelerated aging. (8) By keeping inflammation in check, plant-based diets may help slow down the aging process. That’s because systemic inflammation is one of the 12 hallmarks of aging. As we age, inflammation increases throughout our bodies in a process called inflammaging. This inflammation can trigger other hallmarks of accelerated aging and lead to age-related inflammatory conditions like arteriosclerosis and osteoarthritis.
07

Are you ready to try a plant-based diet?

The link between healthspan and plant-based eating is good news for many vegans and vegetarians, but if you happen to be an omnivore, you may be wondering what the science means for you. Researchers say that if you’re not ready to completely give up meat, you can gradually introduce plant-based eating. Choosing one day a week to eat foods entirely derived from plants is a great place to start. That includes eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes.As always, if you’re thinking about making dramatic changes to your diet, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor or a nutritionist first. Plant-based diets have been linked to some vitamin deficiencies, including lower levels of B12, a nutrient found in animal products. If that’s a consideration for you, your doctor may recommend supplementation.
07

Are you ready to try a plant-based diet?

The link between healthspan and plant-based eating is good news for many vegans and vegetarians, but if you happen to be an omnivore, you may be wondering what the science means for you. Researchers say that if you’re not ready to completely give up meat, you can gradually introduce plant-based eating. Choosing one day a week to eat foods entirely derived from plants is a great place to start. That includes eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes.As always, if you’re thinking about making dramatic changes to your diet, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor or a nutritionist first. Plant-based diets have been linked to some vitamin deficiencies, including lower levels of B12, a nutrient found in animal products. If that’s a consideration for you, your doctor may recommend supplementation.
Key Takeaways:
  • Research shows that replacing animal protein on your plate with plants can reduce your risk of premature death.
  • Diets high in fruits and veggies have been linked to improved cardiovascular health, immune system function, and skin health.
  • Plant-based diets can help manage weight because they require more energy to digest and are higher in fiber, which means they strengthen your metabolic rate and help you feel full while eating less calories overall.
  • People who eat more plants show lower inflammatory markers. Because inflammation is linked to accelerated aging, this may partly explain why plant-based diets are linked to longevity.
Key Takeaways:
  • Research shows that replacing animal protein on your plate with plants can reduce your risk of premature death.
  • Diets high in fruits and veggies have been linked to improved cardiovascular health, immune system function, and skin health.
  • Plant-based diets can help manage weight because they require more energy to digest and are higher in fiber, which means they strengthen your metabolic rate and help you feel full while eating less calories overall.
  • People who eat more plants show lower inflammatory markers. Because inflammation is linked to accelerated aging, this may partly explain why plant-based diets are linked to longevity.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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