vegetarians may live longer than meat-eaters!
Are you a vegetarian? Well, pat yourself on the back because you may be living longer than anyone who chows down on meat! That’s right–a recent study released by the Journal of the American Medical Association is suggesting that vegetarians have a reduced rate of mortality compared to those who incorporate meat in their daily diets. This study has been quite popular in the news, being written up by the Wall Street Journal and featured on the Today Show, amongst other news outlets.
A nearly six-year-long study was comprised of 73,380 vegetarian and non-vegetarian members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, a religious organization that is known for promoting, but not necessarily enforcing, a plant-based diet. Over the time of the study, there were 2,570 reported deaths. Note that the overall group was low in the general use of tobacco and alcohol. The results showed that the vegetarian group experienced 12% fewer deaths than the meat-eaters, especially with the male participants. Amongst the vegetarians, there were less deaths stemming from heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.
One possible reason for this finding is that vegetarian diets, focused mostly on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, often consist of more fiber and less saturated fat than non-vegetarian diets. Fiber helps keep cholesterol and heart disease at bay, as well as flushes the system of toxins and stagnant waste in the body. The two diets in the study did not differ in amount of calories ingested–they were actually fairly identical in energy intake. I find this aspect interesting because remember when everyone was discussing the idea of a low-calorie diet being the secret to longevity? This may refute all those findings. Battle of the longevity studies!
Not all vegetarians are created equal, however. I know plenty of vegetarians that down gallons of cheese as their “protein source”. This type of activity, which is high in saturated fat, would probably end up categorizing you in the meat-eaters category of this study. Vegetarians need to be extremely conscious of what goes in to their bodies, and it is especially important to rack up the nutrients in each meal. Some proteins are stronger than others, so be sure to incorporate some quinoa, hummus with whole-grain pita, nut butter with whole-grain bread or crackers, pasta with beans, etc. into your meals. These food pairings work together to form a complex protein, a combination that rivals the strength of an animal protein. In addition to those combos, check these food pairings in order to maximize your iron and additional nutrient intake.
One final interesting finding: the occurrence of cancer was equally distributed amongst the two dietary groups. This is a powerful finding because many plant-based diets discuss the impact that meat consumption has on cancer-causing toxins in the body. Watch any vegetarian documentary on Netflix streaming and I promise you they’ll mention cancer! While this particular study didn’t delve into the cancer component of the results, I think it’s something worth building upon. Cancer is a huge national (and global) issue, and any insight on preventative measures would be vital for our future.
Now onto my own personal opinion. I understand the power of a plant-based diet and I’ve seen the research. I know it’s great for your body, your complexion, and your budget, but I also know that it isn’t the most desirable or attainable for each person. I myself am not a vegetarian but I do incorporate meatless days throughout the week. Having lean meat or fish throughout the week or a fancy steak every once in awhile is fine with me because it’s easier for my lifestyle. My husband and I are busy during the week (aren’t we all?), so the simple equation of meat + veggies = dinner just makes sense to us. So all in all, my take is moderation, try to keep it clean, and you should be good to go. Oh yeah, and EXERCISE!
What do you guys think of this study?