July 15, 2014
Vegetarians Less Healthy Than Meat Eaters, New Study Shows

Vegetarian? You're going to want a side of meat with those vegetables.

Vegetarians are less healthy than meat eaters, according to a new study out of Austria. Vegetarians suffer from higher risk of asthma, cancer, allergies, and poor mental heath compared to their meat-eating counterparts.

It is important to note that the study did not determine causation, but Erin Tolbert, founder of Midlevel U, had an educated guess for Fox and Friends. She noted that over 90 percent of vegetarians are vitamin B12 deficient, which can contribute to poor mental health. B12 regulates depression, stress, and anxiety by supporting the nervous system.

Vitamin B12 deficiency also causes physical problems. B12 is used to make red blood cells, and so deficiency can lead to anemia. Severe B12 deficiency can cause numbness, trouble walking, severe joint paint, shortness of breath, and jaundice, according to Harvard Health Publications.

While many people take vitamin supplements, the natural source of B12 and other vitamins is always the best, and there are some nutrients that are more difficult or impossible to get in their natural form in a meatless diet. The study noted that "restrictive and monotonous vegetarian diets include the risk of nutritional deficits." Vitamin deficiencies can develop slowly and go unnoticed for years until extreme symptoms present themselves.

Vegetarians suffered from 50 percent increase of both heart attack and cancer. Vegetarians also had a higher rate of asthma, 30.6 percent, compared to 18.2 percent for carnivorous diets rich in fruit and vegetables. Vegetarians in the study suffered more from anxiety, depression, and poor social relationships.

Vegetarians have healthier habits than their meat-eating counter-parts, including a lower BMI, drinking less, smoking less, and exercising more. Therefore, it should be even more impressive that they suffer from higher health risks.

Participants who eat some meat but also lots of vegetables had the lowest cancer risk. High meat consumption is associated with higher mortality rates and lower life expectancy.

The study, "The Association Between Eating Behavior and Various Health Parameters" compared 330 vegetarians to 990 omnivores classified by the varying amounts of meat and vegetables in their diets. Study groups were matches for age, sex, and socioeconomic status to minimize the effects of these factors. The information from the study was pulled from a large health survey conducted in Austria every eight years.

Erin Tolbert appeared on Fox and Friends Saturday to talk about the study. Now she says she is receiving hate mail for her three minute appearance. One physician sent her an email saying that "many people will suffer and die from her message" that eating meat can be healthy.

Erin Tolbert is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner practicing in an emergency department in Nashville, Tennessee.

photo credit: Shawn Econo via photopin cc