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Do Vegetarians Live Longer? ---
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Get Lean Diet for Men
September 18, 2017
By Susan Callahan, Featured Columnist
You may think that asking the question "do vegetarians
live longer?" is tantamount to asking, "does ice melt when
you heat it up?" But, actually, the answer to the question
of life expectancies among vegetarians is not as obvious as
you think. How long do vegetarians live on average? Do
we meat-eaters die off a lot earlier than vegetarians?
Vegetarianism and Veganism --- The New Religion Among
the Healthy Set?
One of the most amusing things about vegetarians is that
many people who define themselves as vegetarian actually
eat meat. My friend, Charlotte, is a self-described
vegetarian, who joins me in a burger and fries lunch a
couple of times a month. Always with a prefacing
disclaimer that she "has to eat a little meat sometimes for
the Vitamin B12", Charlotte tucks heartily into a juicy
quarter-pounder with the best of them. Meal over, lips
wiped daintily with a napkin, she then goes back to being
"herself", the vegetarian. I would call Charlotte a part-
time vegetarian but it would probably end our friendship.
Vegetarians are people who do not eat meat. Vegans are
people who not shun meat but who also do not eat meat
products or products made with any meat products, such
as eggs or dairy.
The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom defines a
vegetarian as " someone who lives on a diet of grains,
pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi,
algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods
(e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or
eggs. A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of, or
have been produced with the aid of products consisting of
or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead
animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish*, insects,
by-products of slaughter** or any food made with
processing aids created from these."
Vegetarians and vegans are concerned a lot about cross-
contamination of their food from any animal or animal
product. So many of them, for example, would look
skeptically at a salad produced in a fast-food restaurant
that also prepares burgers and chicken meals.
After a life-time of this type of disciplined eating or hat
some would call a lifetime of deprivation, do vegetarians
actually live longer than the meat-eaters?
A Large Study of Vegetarians in the UK Put the Lifestyle to
In 2016, scientists from Oxford University conducted a
large study of the mortality of vegetarians. The study,
called "Mortality in vegetarians and comparable
nonvegetarians in the United Kingdom" closely examined
the health records of 60,310 people, making it one of the
largest studies of its kind ever attempted.
Of the 60,310 participants, here was the breakdown of
They then examined the causes of deaths in these people
before age 90 in over 1 million follow-up years (the
number of years of follow-up multiplied by the number of
What difference did they find after examining the rates of
death from 18 of the most common causes of death? Zilch.
Vegetarians, overall, did not live any longer than meat-
eaters or fish-eaters.
If you consider that the overall risk of death for meat-
eaters is "1", then the mortality risk for low meat eaters
was 0.93, about 7% less.
The mortality risk for fish-eaters was 0.96, about 4% less
But the real shock was this: The mortality for vegetarians
was 1.02, about 2% greater than meat-eaters. That's
right, vegetarians had a higher risk of death from the 18
most common causes than meat-eaters.
But When It Comes to Cancer, Vegetarians Win Out
The UK study looked first at mortality risk, on average,
from the 18 most common causes of death. If you drill
down into specific causes of death, differences start to
emerge between vegetarians and others.
For example, fish eaters had a 0.82 risk of death from
cancer, 18% lower than meat-eaters. Pancreatic cancer
deaths were 45% lower in fish eaters and vegetarians.
Lymph cancer was 50% lower in vegetarians and fish-
eaters when compared to meat-eaters.
But The Biggest Shock Came from Heart and Circulatory
Perhaps the biggest shock of all from the UK study
concerned the risk of death from circulatory problems.
These were actually much lower among meat-eaters than
When compared to vegetarians, however, meat-eaters
have higher death rates from heart and artery diseases.
That has been proven from many studies over decades. A
landmark 2004 study from Harvard School of Public Health
found that eating 5 or more servings of fruits and
vegetables daily lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease
by 12%. This study has been duplicated by universities
and research institutes from all over the world. So, yes,
eating meat will increase your risk of dying from heart and
Bottom Line -- Choose Your Poison
We are all going to de of something. However, we don't
have to speed up the journey. If you are at a particular
risk for heart disease, then you should choose to angle
your diet closer to the vegetarian end of the spectrum.
Or, if your family history is riddled with cancer, then you
should probably avoid overdoing the meat, keeping your
frequency to less than 5 servings a week.
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|Eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
lowers risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
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