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Pacificans help conduct research showing health benefits of plant-based meal kits

Sanaz Ziad

Sanaz Ziad ’16, PharmD, cardiometabolic clinical pharmacist at David Grant USAF Medical Center and fellow in Pacific’s Fellowship in Industry Program

Researchers from David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base published findings of a clinical trial concluding that eating dinners from Purple Carrot, a plant-based meal kit service, showed a statistically significant reduction in both “bad” cholesterol (LDL-C) and body weight as compared to dinners by a nationally-known non-plant-based meal kit.

The study found an average 3.82-pound weight loss in the plant-based diet group, compared to an average 0.87-pound weight gain in the non-plant-based diet group. The findings are significant as weight reduction is regularly recommended for cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes management.

“Over a relatively short duration of time, we found that a plant-based diet significantly reduces LDL-C and weight compared to a standard omnivorous diet,” said co-author, Sanaz Ziad ’16, PharmD, cardiometabolic clinical pharmacist at David Grant USAF Medical Center and fellow in Pacific’s Fellowship in Industry Program

The study enrolled 32 overweight, but otherwise healthy, military beneficiaries who normally consume an omnivorous diet to voluntarily follow either a plant-based diet or maintain their standard omnivorous diet. For a duration of 4 weeks, the volunteers consumed breakfast and lunch on their own based on their chosen diet group. For dinner, the volunteers had either a plant-based meal, via a Purple Carrot meal kit, or an omnivorous meal, via a popular meal kit.

The researchers measured cholesterol, weight and blood pressure markers at baseline and at 4 weeks. Participants were encouraged to maintain baseline activity throughout the duration of the trial, which was also assessed by commercially available activity trackers.

“As a lifelong scientist dedicated to optimizing cardiovascular health, I support the adoption of a plant-based diet,” said Sachin A. Shah, PharmD, FACC, FAHA, professor of pharmacy practice, professor of pharmacy practice, regional coordinator and director of pharmacy research and education at Travis Air Force Base. “This study provides data that switching to a plant-based diet is heart healthy and that the use of a plant-based meal kit like Purple Carrot, even a few nights per week, can facilitate that transition.” 

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a healthy diet is a key factor to preventing cardiovascular disease. One’s daily food choices become part of a lifestyle pattern. Consistently making choices to change the pattern can be difficult. 

“Mission readiness is of uttermost priority to the USAF and we are committed to doing the research needed to optimize the health of our troops,” said Lieutenant Colonel Patrick W. Kennedy, director of the clinical investigation facility, David Grant USAF Medical Center. 

“With more people than ever turning to meal kits to manage through the complexities of the pandemic, it’s great to see this important clinical data confirming the health benefits that Purple Carrot meals provide,” said Andy Levitt, founder and CEO of Purple Carrot.

In addition to Drs. Ziad and Shah, the study was co-authored by Amanda L. Keller, Allison M. Stephens, Elizabeth A. Tesch, Joseph Sky, Vina E. Howarth, David Grant USAF Medical Center, Travis Air Force Base; Eric Shih ’20, PharmD, University of the Pacific, Stockton; and Kirbee A. Brooks, Solano County Public Health, Sacramento. The team presented their findings at the AHA’s 2020 Annual Meeting, held virtually held virtually November 13 – 17.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this material are of the authors, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Air Force, University of the Pacific or Solano County Department of Public Health.