Vegetarians may have lower risk of heart disease: study

Fri Feb 1, 2013 6:07am IST

People line up for free meals during lunchtime at the Singapore Buddhist Lodge June 6, 2008. REUTERS/Tim Chong/Files

People line up for free meals during lunchtime at the Singapore Buddhist Lodge June 6, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Tim Chong/Files

Related Topics

REUTERS - In yet more evidence that avoiding meat is good for the health, a UK study has found that vegetarians are one-third less likely to be hospitalized or die from heart disease than meat and fish eaters.

Previous research has also suggested that non-meat eaters have fewer heart problems, said researchers publishing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, but it wasn't clear if other lifestyle differences, such as exercise and smoking habits, might also play into that.

"We're able to be slightly more certain that it is something that's in the vegetarian diet that's causing vegetarians to have a lower risk of heart disease," said Francesca Crowe, who led the new study at the University of Oxford.

Crowe and her colleagues tracked almost 45,000 people living in England and Scotland who initially reported on their diet, lifestyle and general health in the 1990s. At the start of the study, about one-third of the participants said they ate a vegetarian diet, without meat or fish.

Over the next 11 to 12 years, 1,086 of the study subjects were hospitalized for heart disease, including heart attacks, and 169 died.

After taking into account participants' ages, exercise habits and other health measures, the research team found vegetarians were 32 percent less likely to develop heart disease than carnivores. When weight was factored into the equation, the effect dropped slightly to 28 percent.

The lower heart risk was likely due to lower cholesterol and blood pressure among vegetarians in the study, the researchers said.

Meat eaters had an average total cholesterol of 222 mg/dL and a systolic blood pressure - the top number in a blood pressure reading - of 134 mm Hg, compared to 203 mg/dL total cholesterol and 131 mm Hg systolic blood pressure among vegetarians.

Diastolic blood pressure - the lower number - was similar between the two groups.

Crowe said the difference in cholesterol levels between meat eaters and vegetarians was equivalent to about half the benefit someone would see by taking a statin medication.

The effect is probably at least partly due to the lack of red meat - especially meat high in saturated fat - in vegetarians' diets, she added. The extra fruits, vegetables and higher fiber in a non-meat diet could also play a role.

"If people want to reduce their risk of heart disease by changing their diet, one way of doing that is to follow a vegetarian diet," Crowe told Reuters Health.

However, just scaling back on saturated fat can also make a difference. Butter, ice cream, cheeses and meats all typically contain saturated fat. SOURCE: bit.ly/YGw40

' (Reporting from New York by Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

A Minute With

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Jagger on James

Jagger on James

Mick Jagger talks about his friendship with the late James Brown.  Video 

'And So It Goes'

'And So It Goes'

Douglas, Keaton get second chance at love in 'And So It Goes'.  Full Article 

The littlest prince

The littlest prince

Prince George of Cambridge, third in line to succeed the British throne, celebrates his first birthday.  Slideshow 

Amy On Paper

Amy On Paper

Late singer Amy Winehouse has her life detailed in a new bio comic book.   Video 

Gershwin  for Joel

Gershwin for Joel

Singer Billy Joel to be honored with U.S. Gershwin Prize   Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage