Though the fountain of youth may be a myth, research is revealing the link between what we consume and the quality and length of our lives. It’s pretty simple – a better diet means better health and a longer life, and recent research shows this might mean cutting meat out of your diet.
A new study published in JAMA’s Internal Medicine† finds that vegetarian diets are associated with a lower risk of early death — about 12 percent lower over a period of about six years of follow-up.
Researchers based the study on a one-time survey of over 70,000 Seventh-day Adventists, members of a religion that promotes healthful diets and avoiding alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. While not all members of the church are vegetarians, a model diet is often one that is meatless.
“This study provides additional evidence that vegetarian diets are associated with improved health outcomes, including all-cause mortality”
To help researchers categorize their diets, participants responded to a questionnaire about dietary habits. Researchers used the responses to divide participants into five groups:
- 48.2% non-vegetarian
- 5.5% semi-vegetarian
- 9.8% pesco-vegetarian
- 28.9% were lacto-ovo-vegetarian
- 7.6% vegan
The subjects were followed from 2002 to 2007 and during that time 2,570 participants died. Each year, seven out of every 1,000 non-vegetarians died, compared to five or six vegetarians out of every 1,000 participants. The results reflected a 12% lower risk of mortality for vegetarians over the study period.
Those on a vegetarian diet tended to have a lower rate of death due to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and renal disorders such as kidney failure. The longevity link was also more significant in men than in women. Researchers found that vegetarian men were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and conditions such as ischemic heart disease . Women, however, did not see any significant reductions in death in from cardiovascular disease.
The study did not determine conclusively whether the decreased mortality risk was the direct result of a plant-based diet or the result of minimal meat and animal-product consumption.
Vegetarian participants tended to be older, more highly educated, less likely to smoke or drink, less likely to be obese, less likely to have conditions such as high blood pressure, and more likely to exercise regularly. These lifestyle choi