Lower Risk of Heart Disease for Vegetarians
A study shows that vegetarians have a lower risk of developing heart disease compared to meat-eaters. The lower risk may be attributable to lower blood pressure and cholesterol among the vegetarians. The findings were reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by the research team led by Francesca Crowe at the University of Oxford.
The study tracked about 45,000 residents of England and Scotland in 1990 where they disclosed their diet, lifestyle and general health and one-third of the respondents followed a vegetarian diet exclusive of fish or meat. Over the next 11-12 years, 169 of the participants died due to heart disease and 1,066 were confined in the hospital for the same cause including heart attack.
Analysis of data revealed that vegetarians were less likely to develop heart disease by 32% over the meat-eaters, taking into account the age, physical activity and other health measures of the participants. However, the rate dropped to 28% when weight was included. Likewise, the study showed the average total cholesterol level of meat eaters was 222 mg/dL and 134 mm Hg systolic blood pressure (higher number in BP reading) whereas the vegetarians showed total cholesterol of 203mg/dL and 131 mm Hg systolic BP. Diastolic BP (lower number) was the same for both groups.
According to Crowe, the difference in cholesterol levels between the two groups is equal to almost half the benefit one would see by taking a statin (drugs that lower cholesterol). The probable reason could be the high fiber in fruits and vegetables coupled with lack of red meats (high saturated fat) in a vegetarian’s diet. Crowe recommends following this diet to reduce risk of heart disease. However, there is no need to take out meat but one has to reduce intake of foods high in saturated fat.
Pittman, G. Could going veg lower your risk of heart disease? Reuters.