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Open AccessReview

Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Safety and Performance in Endurance Sports

Adjunct and Clinical Faculty, Department of Internal Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Department of Clinical Research, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Barnard Medical Center, Washington, District of Columbia, DC 20016, USA
Private Practice, Bend, OR 97702, USA
Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, TX 78236, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2019, 11(1), 130;
Received: 1 November 2018 / Revised: 10 December 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2018 / Published: 10 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Vegan Nutrition)
PDF [241 KB, uploaded 10 January 2019]


Studies suggest that endurance athletes are at higher-than-average risk for atherosclerosis and myocardial damage. The ability of plant-based regimens to reduce risk and affect performance was reviewed. The effect of plant-based diets on cardiovascular risk factors, particularly plasma lipid concentrations, body weight, and blood pressure, and, as part of a healthful lifestyle, reversing existing atherosclerotic lesions, may provide a substantial measure of cardiovascular protection. In addition, plant-based diets may offer performance advantages. They have consistently been shown to reduce body fat, leading to a leaner body composition. Because plants are typically high in carbohydrate, they foster effective glycogen storage. By reducing blood viscosity and improving arterial flexibility and endothelial function, they may be expected to improve vascular flow and tissue oxygenation. Because many vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based foods are rich in antioxidants, they help reduce oxidative stress. Diets emphasizing plant foods have also been shown to reduce indicators of inflammation. These features of plant-based diets may present safety and performance advantages for endurance athletes. The purpose of this review was to explore the role of nutrition in providing cardioprotection, with a focus on plant-based diets previously shown to provide cardiac benefits. View Full-Text
Keywords: nutrition; exercise; athletic performance; vegan; vegetarian nutrition; exercise; athletic performance; vegan; vegetarian
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Barnard, N.D.; Goldman, D.M.; Loomis, J.F.; Kahleova, H.; Levin, S.M.; Neabore, S.; Batts, T.C. Plant-Based Diets for Cardiovascular Safety and Performance in Endurance Sports. Nutrients 2019, 11, 130.

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