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 hospitalised 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
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
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: http://bit.ly/YGw40