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Could being veggie be better for your health?

1 February 2013

Could being veggie be better for your health?

Researchers have discovered that vegetarians are a third less likely to need hospital treatment for heart disease than their meat-eating counterparts.  It is thought that this is due to their low fat diet which is based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit – resulting in a lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol.

The study was conducted on almost 145,000 volunteers, 34% of which were vegetarians and mostly women. Participants completed questionnaires on health, lifestyle, diet, exercise, smoking habits and alcohol consumption.  20,000 had their blood pressure recorded and gave blood samples to test cholesterol.  The results showed that being vegetarian reduced the risk of death or hospital admission due to heart disease by 32%.

Co-author Professor Tim Key, deputy director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, said, “The results clearly show the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower than in non-vegetarians.”

Dr Francesca Crowe, author of the study at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, said, “Most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure, and shows the important role of diet in the prevention of heart disease.”

Red meat, especially processed meat contains ingredients which are linked to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.  These ingredients include heme iron, saturated fat, sodium and some carcinogens which form during cooking.

An American study conducted on 120,000 participants came to a similar conclusion, that eating other forms of healthy protein instead of red meat could cut the risk of heart disease.

British Heart Foundation dietitian Tracy Parker said, “This reminds us that we should try to eat a balanced and varied diet – whether this includes meat or not.”