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Tuesday 25th June 2019

Vegetarian diet reduces risk of early death

18th April 2011

A joint Swedish-American study has found that vegetarians are less likely to suffer heart problems, diabetes or strokes than people who eat meat.


The small study observed links between the prevalence of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart problems and diabetes, and diet.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Loma Linda University and the School of Public Health, Loma Linda, California looked at 773 members of a Christian sect whose followers limit meat intake.

They found that 25% of complete vegetarians among this group had metabolic syndrome.

But that percentage rose to 37% of “semi-vegetarians” and 39% of total omnivores, according to the study, which was funded by the US National Institutes of Health.

The followers of the Seventh Day Adventist Christian belief system have formed the basis of previous dietary research because many stick strictly to specific diets.

Their religion also encourages them to avoid certain unhealthy lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking, making them a sample relatively free from the influence of such behaviours.

The average age of the current study participants was 60 years.

The study did not, however, demonstrate changes or cause and effect relationships between the links that were found.

Experts pointed out that the study, pub­lished in the journal Diabetes Care, only looked at a very small sample of people at a single point in time.

They said that the results of the study did not change current healthy eating advice.

Five risk factors have been identified for cardiovascular disease and diabetes: high blood pressure, high HDL cholesterol, high glucose levels, high triglycerides (fat levels) and a large waist measurement.

A patient must have three out of the five to be diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome.

According to team researcher Nico Rizzo, the results came as something of a surprise.

Rizzo said the study indicated that lifestyle factors such as diet can be important in the prevention of metabolic syndrome.

Other experts warned people not to drop heart-healthy forms of animal protein.

Sources of protein like lean meat, oily fish and eggs can all be included as part of a heart-healthy diet, according to British Heart Foundation dietician Victoria Taylor.

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