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Veggie burgers increase heart risk—a little bit

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Eating a veggie burger increases your risks of heart disease—but only slightly.

Vegans and vegetarians who regularly eat meat-free sausages and burgers are up to 15 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) than someone who only eats vegetables.

These ready meals are ultra-processed, and so come with a health risk, warn researchers from Sao Paulo University in Brazil, who tracked the diets and health of around 126,000 Britons for nine years.  The researchers classified the diets as plant- or non-plant sourced, and sub-divided those into non-UPF (ultra processed food) and UPF.

For every 10 percent increase in plant-based, non-UPF foods—essentially, vegetables—there was a 7 percent reduced risk of CVD, and a 13 percent lower risk of heart death, while those eating meat-substitute processed meals faced a 5 percent raised risk of heart disease and were 12 percent more likely to die from CVD.

But these figures need to be set against the actual risk of developing CVD.  Someone who falls into the high-risk profile—either because of family history, being obese or a smoker, for instance—runs a 15 percent increased risk of developing CVD over the next five years.

So, the real increased risk of developing CVD from regularly eating meat-substitute meals is around 0.75 percent (5% x 15%).

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Lancet Regional Health – Europe, 2024; 100948; doi: 10.1016/j.lanepe.2024.100948
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