Vegetarians enjoy a healthier and safer diet
Vegetarians are a third less likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes or strokes than meat-eaters becuase they have a healthier diet, according to researchers.
Even people who consume a semi-vegetarian diet – those who avoid red meat but still eat chicken or fish – have a slightly lower risk of developing these conditions.
It has been known for some time that eating too much processed meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer and raise cholesterol levels, whereas a diet rich in vegetables can have opposite effect and lower cholesterol.
This new research, however, shows that those who shun meat altogether have a greater chance of not developing high blood pressure, bad cholesterol or other heart or health problems.
The US study found that vegetarians have a 36 percent lower rate of metabolic syndrome – a combination of factors that can cause diabetes and heart attacks.
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To receive a diagnosis for metabolic syndrome, a person needs to suffer from three out of the five risk factors, which are; high blood pressure, high glucose levels, high levels of fat in the body (triglycerides), high cholesterol levels and being overweight.
Although vegetarians are not immune to suffering from metabolic syndrome, only 25 per cent of the ones studied at the Loma Linda University in California had it.
This is compared to 37 per cent of participants with metabolic syndrome on a semi-vegetarian diet, and 39 percent of omnivores that were tested.
Researcher Nico Rizzo said: “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.”
Fellow researcher Gary Fraser added: "This work again shows diet improves many of the main cardiovascular risk factors that are part of metabolic syndrome. Trending towards a plant-based diet is a sensible choice."
700 volunteers took part in the study, 35 per cent of whom where vegetarians. The findings were also altered according to other lifestyle factors, such as smoking and drinking, in an attempt to give a definitive result based solely on diet choices.