Vegetarians Live Longer, Study Says

Sorry, carnivores, but a new study has found that vegetarians live longer than their meat-eating counterparts.

The study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 73,308 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for nearly six years. The church promotes a vegetarian diet, although not all members have cut meat out of their diets. The researchers found out what kind of diet the study participants ate, and then followed up at the end of the six-year period to see how many participants died and how.

The study broke participants down into vegetarians, non-vegetarians, and semi-vegetarians, people who eat meat more than once a month but less than once a week. Participants also included vegans, who cut dairy and eggs from their diets, as well as those who eat fish (known as “pescetarians”) but for the purposes of the study, researchers lumped the different subsets into a general “vegetarian” category.

Vegetarians in the study experienced 12 percent fewer deaths. A vegetarian diet appeared to be a major contributing factor in protecting participants from heart disease — non-meat eaters were 19 percent less likely to die from the disease than meat eaters.

Vegetarians also suffered fewer deaths from kidney failure and diabetes. However, cutting out meat did not appear to protect the study participants from cancer — vegetarians and meat eaters were equally affected by the disease.

Males appeared to benefit from a vegetarian diet more than women, and caloric intake didn’t seem to be a factor, with the participant groups generally eating the same amount of calories daily.

The paper, which was written by researchers at Loma Linda University, includes a more diverse population than previous research, lead author Michael Orlich said.

“People are confronted with all sorts of nutritional information, but the bottom line is, ‘How will your diet pattern affect your risk of dying,'” Orlich, director of the preventive medicine residency program at LLU, said.

Researchers are unsure why a plant-based diet appears to be protective, but it is likely that the nutrient profile of vegetarian diets — high in fiber, low in saturated fat — may be part of the reason. However, vegetarian diets can still be high in calories and fat.

The Seventh-day Adventist “position statement on vegetarian diet” recommends the “generous use of whole grain breads, cereals and pastas, a liberal use of fresh vegetables and fruits, a moderate use of legumes, nuts, seeds. It can also include low fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheeses and eggs.”

Are you surprised that vegetarians live longer than meat eaters?