New research from Sheffield Hallam University has found that adopting a Mediterranean diet can help improve cardiovascular health.

Researchers also looked into the effects on the body of adopting a vegan diet, which included weight loss and the consumption of less fat and saturated fat.

The pilot study, led by Dr Markos Klonizakis and Dr David Rogerson from Hallam’s Faculty of Health and Wellbeing and supported by the Nutrition Department of the University of Sheffield, suggests that although a vegan diet can support effective weight loss and lower a person’s cholesterol, a Mediterranean diet can offer stronger cardio-protective benefits as it increases the availability of the much-needed nitric oxide – a molecule important for the regulation of blood pressure and inflammation.

The study involved younger adults below the age of 35, who were split into two groups; group one followed a vegan diet for a four-week period, while group two had to consume the Mediterranean diet over the same time period.

Dr Klonizakis, chief investigator of the study, said: “As a team, we wanted to focus on two of the most talked-about diets of recent times.

“Results suggest that although both diets can be beneficial for health, the Mediterranean diet is more appropriate for all those who are at higher-risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as it increases nitric oxide availability and improves the ability of our veins to dilate.

“It is also important to note that the positive effects appear only four weeks into the intervention, which suggests that those who decide to take up the Mediterranean diet, can reap the benefits sooner.”

Dr Rogerson added: “An interesting, and perhaps unexpected, finding was that the vegan diet group experienced notable weight loss as a result of following the diet. This was despite our instruction to eat normally and not limit the amount of food that was consumed.

“Both of the groups appeared to consume more fruits, vegetables and fibre and less fat and saturated fat as a result of the diets, but that these effects appeared to be greatest in the vegan group, which might help to explain why they lost weight.

“Some caution needs to be raised however if deciding to follow a vegan diet for weight-loss or health-related purpose without advice or guidance, as we found that the diet led to noticeable reductions in the consumption of important vitamins and minerals.”

Sheffield Hallam University is a national leader in creating innovative and real-world solutions for tackling today’s health and wellbeing challenges.

Sheffield Hallam University is a national leader in creating innovative and real-world solutions for tackling today’s health and wellbeing challenges and its practitioners, scientists, engineers and designers regularly collaborate to create innovative solutions that will drive economic growth, health improvements and community wellbeing.

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