Vegetarians Live Longer Than Meat-Eaters, Loma Linda University Study Finds
Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Studying more than 70,000 people over a 6-year period, researchers from Loma Linda University in California found that vegetarians were 12 percent less likely to die from any cause. Vegans saw a 15 percent lower risk of death; lacto-ovo-vegetarians (those who don't eat meat but eat eggs and dairy), 9 percent; pesco-vegetarians, 19 percent; and semi-vegetarians, 8 percent.
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The study followed members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which promotes a vegetarian diet, though not all Seventh-day Adventists follow the practice and abstain from eating meat.
"These results demonstrate an overall association of vegetarian dietary patterns with lower mortality compared with the nonvegetarian dietary pattern," the researchers wrote. "They also demonstrate some associations with lower mortality of the pesco-vegetarian, vegan and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets specifically compared with the nonvegetarian diet."
The benefits of a vegetarian diet are thought to come from lower blood pressure and better cholesterol levels compared with those who eat meat. Vegetarian diets tend to be higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat. Caloric intake didn't affect things one way or another in the study.
The study didn't necessarily determine that avoiding meat was what lowered the risk of dying. There could be many factors beyond just meat and vegetable consumption that affected the study's results. Vegetarians, for instance, tend to be more likely to be married, have more education and exercise more, all variables that could lead to a longer life. They're also less likely to smoke or drink.
"People are confronted with all sorts of nutritional information," said Orlich, "but the bottom line is, 'How will your diet pattern affect your risk of dying?'"
Interestingly, the study showed that men benefited more than women from the vegetarian diets.
"I don't have any strong speculations, but it could be that the diet is playing out differently due to biological factors in men and women," said Michael Orlich, lead author of the study.
Orlich plans to further investigate the link between diet and gender.
Last year, researchers in England found that the risk of hospitalization or death from heart disease is 32 percent lower in vegetarians than in meat-eaters.
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