Less risk of vegetarians dying from heart disease
Published on 01 February 2013 11:30 AM
Vegetarians have a lower risk of death or hospital admission from heart disease compared to non-vegetarians, even in older age, according to new research.
The study of almost 45,000 British adults found that not eating meat or fish was associated with better heart health, while vegetarians also displayed lower levels of harmful cholesterol in their blood and reduced systolic, or maximum, blood pressure.
Between the ages of 50 and 70, the chances of dying or becoming seriously ill with heart disease were 6.8% for non-vegetarians and 4.6% for vegetarians.
A total of 34% of participants were vegetarian, the vast majority of whom were women.
Carried out in the UK and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study focused on ischaemic heart disease (ISD), which is caused by blocked arteries depriving the heart muscle of blood. They recorded 1,066 hospital admissions due to heart disease, and 169 deaths, over an average follow-up period of 11.6 years.
Vegetarians also less likely to suffer diabetes
After adjusting for a wide range of factors that could have influenced the outcome, like age, sex, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, education and social background, vegetarians were found to be 32% less likely to be included in the figures than non-vegetarians.
'This analysis showed that British vegetarians have a lower risk of hospitalisation for or death from IHD than do comparable non-vegetarians,' concluded the scientists.
'A substantial proportion of the difference in risk was probably mediated through the effect of a vegetarian diet on ... cholesterol concentrations and systolic blood pressure, which supports the important role of diet in the prevention of IHD.'
It is the largest study to be carried out in the UK investigating the impact of vegetarianism on heart disease.
The effect of a low-fat vegetarian diet on cholesterol and blood pressure is thought to be the main reason for the difference, although the fact that vegetarians tended to be slimmer than non-vegetarians, therefore having a lower body mass index, was also believed to be a contributing factor.
Vegetarians were also less likely to be affected by diabetes - something which researchers also attributed as playing a part in the difference.
Copyright Press Association 2013