Opting for plant-based meat alternatives instead of red meat may significantly lower cardiovascular risk, a new study revealed.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, funded by Beyond Meat as an unrestricted gift, compared the health effects of plant-based alternatives with that of red meat. It was noted that the company was not involved at any stage of the study and in the analysis of the data gathered.

Dr Christopher Gardner, a professor at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, and a senior author of the paper gathered a group of 36 individuals. The group was made to undergo two different diets in a period of 16 weeks.

For the first eight weeks, half of the group had at least two daily servings of red meat, and the other half had plant-based meat, still given daily in the same amounts as with the red meat. In the next eight weeks, the two groups switched diets. The participants in the dietary experiment tracked their meals in journals. They also worked with the researchers to properly record eating habits.

The researchers then measured a molecule in the body linked to cardiovascular diseases. The molecule was trimethylamine N-oxide, otherwise known as TMAO, which they called as an emerging risk factor. They discovered that when the participants eat plant-based meat, the TMAO levels in the body were lower compared to the period where they consumed red meat.

Gardner mentioned that although they are not sure if TMAO is a causal risk factor or merely an association, the results of the study cannot be ignored. Gardner stated that previous research showed how high levels of TMAO were associated with blood clotting and increased inflammation and that those who exhibited high TMAO levels also had a 60 percent higher risk of cardiovascular issues like a heart attack.

Aside from cardiovascular issues, Gardner also noted that plant-based alternatives also benefited cholesterol levels and weight. Eating plant-based options led to a drop in bad cholesterol levels. They also showed a significant reduction in weight, which was at an average of two pounds.

Ohio Grocery Store Employee Accused Of Eating $9,200 Deli Meat Photo: Getty Images/Joe Raedle

The lead author, postdoctoral scholar Anthony Crimarco, said that the modest weight loss among the participants was an unexpected finding since the study was not even a "weight-loss study." Gathering all these, he underscored the importance of diet quality in keeping oneself healthy.