Meat Eaters or Vegetarians? Who Lives Longer?

meatystudyWho do you think lives longer, meat eaters or vegetarians? Many people might immediately say “vegetarians,” and they may or may not be right.

This has been a long debated topic in the scientific community, and the research and results vary. Some studies claim that it makes no difference, while others claim that vegetarians live longer. An interesting thing to note is none claim meat eaters live longer. It is either fairly equal, or vegetarian.

So why are the results unclear? Put simply, the results are unclear because there are many factors impacting health and vitality besides diet. One thing to consider is often those who live a vegetarian lifestyle are also practicing other forms of health, such as regular exercise, abstaining from smoking and drinking, etc. They are likely married and well educated as well. So the question is whether or not the longer lifespan can be attributed to being vegetarian, or to other factors.

Let’s take a look at some of these studies, and you can decide for yourself:

Study 1:

Study found here:

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the association of meat intake and the healthy eating index (HEI) with total mortality, cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality.

Subjects: 17611 participants from Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

  • Meat intake was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire administrated at baseline.
  • Adherence to the HEI was analyzed with a single 24-h dietary recall.
  • Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of mortality according to five categories of meat consumption and three categories of the HEI score.

Results: Meat consumption was not consistently associated with mortality. A healthy diet, however, was associated with a decreased total mortality in men, but not in women.

Study 2:

Study found here:

Objective: The objective of this study was to measure mortality ratios for vegetarianism and for daily versus less than daily intake of whole meal bread, bran cereals, nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, and raw salad in relation to mortality, and more specific mortality from ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, malignany neoplasm’s, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer.

Subjects: The study involved several thousand people:

  • 19% of subject smoked
  • 43% were vegetarians
  • 62% ate whole meal bread daily
  • 27% ate bran cereals daily
  • 38% ate nuts and dried fruit daily
  • 77% ate fresh fruit daily
  • 38% are raw salad daily

Results: After 16.8 years, there was a follow up. 1343 subjects had died before age 80. The study had a mortality rate of about half the general population.

The conclusion was daily consumption of fresh fruit is associated with a reduced mortality from ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and all causes combined. But being a vegetarian or not made no significant difference.

Study 3:

Study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Objective: Loma Linda University was looking to determine if vegetarian lifestyle will increase life span.

Subjects: The study included 73,308 Seventh-Day Adventist men and women, who were recruited sometime between 2002 and 2007, and were followed for a mean time of 5.79 years. Over that time period, 2,570 people died.

Results: Vegetarian dietary patterns are associated with lower mortality compared to non-vegetarian dietary patterns.

Compared with non-vegetarians:

  • All vegetarians had a 12 percent lower risk of dying over this time period.
  • Vegans had a 15 percent lower risk of death
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarians had a 9 percent lower risk of death
  • Pesco-vegetarians had a 19 percent lower risk of death
  • Semi-vegetarians had an 8 percent lower risk of death.

Notes: The subjects who were vegetarians tended to be more likely to be married, have higher education levels, be older, and thinner. They were more likely to exercise regularly, and not smoke or drink. All of these factors along with the relatively short period of study time could play a role in the lower risk of death for vegetarians.

What do you think?

Do you think vegetarians or meat eaters live longer? While these studies only show a small sliver of a larger picture, it is important to note that according to a study from University of Oxford, consuming a vegetarian diet lowers heart disease risk by 32 percent, compared with meat- and fish-eaters. Heart disease is the largest cause of death in the United States. Another study in the Diabetes Care showed that a vegetarian diet is linked to fewer metabolic risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

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