Healthy & unhealthful plant-based diet - the difference is a major risk factor for many chronic conditions

By Dr Raya Grishina-Gunn

Diet is a major risk factor for many chronic conditions. In the first world countries poor diet is a leading cause of premature death. It is also a major contributor to many chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many some cancers. Mokdad, et al 2018.

A diet that is higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods has been recommended for disease prevention as well as for the lesser impact on our environment Nelson et. Al 2016.

However, there is poor differentiation between vegan, vegetarian and plant based whole foods diet, they are often treated as one and the same.  Not all plant foods are beneficial to health and a proper plant based whole food diet needs to be well planned to benefit nutrition and health.

A study by H Li looked at 40,074 participants after a median follow-up of 7.8 years.   The age of participants was 18-85 years old.  Alcohol was not included in this study. Diets were classified into:


  • Healthy plant-based diet: consisting of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nut, legumes and beans, vegetable oils and tea and coffee.
  • Unhealthy plant-based diet: fruit juices, sugar sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes and sweets
  • Animal food diet: animal fats, dairy, eggs, fish/seafood, meat and processed meat.


The results of this study revealed that greater adherence to healthful plant-based diet was associated with lower total risk of premature death, while keeping an unhealthful plant-based diet was associated with increased risk of all-cause death and cardiovascular disease death in particular.  This study also demonstrated that animal proteins particularly eggs and dairy have been associated with increased death from cancer.

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