Are vegetarians protected from heart disease, diabetes?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Vegetarian diet
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Vegetarians are less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, one of the main contributors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. In a new study, scientists say they were "surprised" to find just how much lifestyle factors such diet contribute to metabolic syndrome that includes high blood pressure, elevated glucose and LDL cholesterol,high triglycerides and increased waist circumference.

Non-vegetarians have 39 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome

Compared to people who follow a vegetarian diet, scientists from The Loma Linda University found semi-vegetarians have a 36 percent increased risk of metabolic syndrome, while meat eaters had a 39 percent higher chance of metabolic syndrome and associated health consequences of cardiovascular disease.

Lead researcher Nico S. Rizzo, PhD says, "I was not sure if there would be a significant difference between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and I was surprised by just how much the numbers contrast. It indicates that lifestyle factors such as diet can be important in the prevention of metabolic syndrome."

Rizzo explained the study was conducted because of the high rates of metabolic syndrome in the United States that has significant negative health effects..."we wanted to examine lifestyle patterns that could be effective in the prevention and possible treatment of this disorder."

Study shows vegetarian diet cuts risk for diseases

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The study included 700 adults sampled from Loma Linda University's Adventist Health Study 2. The participants were part of a long-term investigation of lifestyle and health of almost 100,000 Seventh-day Adventist Christians throughout the US and Canada.

Thirty-five percent of the 700 adults were vegetarian and approximately three years older than non-vegetarians. Even though vegetarians were slightly older, they had lower blood pressure, triglycerides, blood sugar levels and smaller waistlines than those who regularly ate meat, as did semi-vegetarians.

Gary Fraser, MD, PhD, principal investigator of Adventist Health Study 2 says, "Trending toward a plant-based diet is a sensible choice." Based on the study, vegetarians and semi-vegetarians have a 36 to 39 percent lower chance of developing metabolic syndrome that is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Source: Loma Linda University

Image: Wikimedia commons

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