Cholesterol-lowering Portfolio Diet correlates with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease among postmenopausal women

A colorful assortment of bright fruits and vegetables

The Portfolio Diet, a plant-based eating pattern that helps improve cholesterol, is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseasecoronary heart disease, and heart failure, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.  
Researchers knew the dietary template, which is based on eating fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and healthful sources of fat, helped adults lower cholesterol and other inflammatory markers. However, they didn’t have data about how the diet overlapped with cardiovascular disease. Therefore, they connected with 123,330 postmenopausal women, ages 50-79, from the Women’s Health Initiative and assessed how their food intake, measured over about 15 years, fit into the Portfolio Diet recommendations. Women received higher points for eating plant protein (such as peas and beans); viscous “feel full” fiber (including oranges, pears, and zucchini); nuts and seeds; and phytosterols, protective compounds found in the walls of plants. Monounsaturated fats, such as avocado or olive oil, were favored over saturated fat and cholesterol, including high-fat dairy products or red and processed meats. The researchers found that women who ate a higher proportion of Portfolio Diet foods had an 11%, 14%, and 17% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and heart failure, respectively, compared to those with a lower adherence to the plant-based style of eating. No associated risk reductions were found for stroke or atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm.  

The authors conclude the Portfolio Diet, which is similar to recommendations from other heart-healthful meal plans, like Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or a Mediterranean-style diet, provides people with another dietary template to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. The research was partially supported by the NHLBI.