Vegetarians Have Better Hearts
January 30, 2013

Veggie Diet Can Lead To Less Heart Disease

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Those vegetarians who are tired of being mocked by carnivores and incessantly asked “but where do you get your protein?” can hold their heads up high today. According to a new study from the University of Oxford, vegetarians are 32 percent less likely to be hospitalized for, or die from, heart disease.

All told, heart disease is the number one culprit when it comes to deaths in developed western civilizations. In fact, some 65,000 annual deaths are linked to heart disease in the UK alone, and according to the BBC, more than 2.6 million people currently live with heart disease. Dr. Francesca Crowe, lead author of this new study, says differences in diet can play a significant role in reducing heart disease risks. “Most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure, and shows the important role of diet in the prevention of heart disease,” explained Dr. Crowe, in a statement. This study is the largest of its kind performed in the UK, analyzing data from more than 44,000 people; 15,000 of which are vegetarians, while 29,400 eat both meat and fish. While these thousands of participants were being watched over an 11-year span, 169 of them died due to heart disease. 1,066 of them ended up in the hospital for the same disease. After analyzing the data, Dr. Crowe and team discovered the majority of these people were meat and fish eaters. Though a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables can keep your heart healthy, Dr. Crowe said she´s not yet ready to recommend this diet to everyone. "The main message is that diet is an important determinant of heart health, I'm not advocating that everyone eats a vegetarian diet,” said Dr. Crowe, speaking to the BBC.

“The diets are quite different. Vegetarians probably have a lower intake of saturated fat so it makes sense there is a lower risk of heart disease." In addition to a lower risk of heart disease, vegetarians in the UK were also found to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and even lower Body Mass Indexes (or BMIs.) With a lower BMI, these vegetarians were also found to have a lower risk for diabetes, though these findings were not as significant as the effects on heart health. When the results were adjusted to exclude the effects of a larger BMI on the heart, vegetarians were only 28 percent less likely to have some sort of heart disease -- not an insignificant number. Tracy Parker from the British Heart Foundation also spoke with the BBC and agreed that a change in diet could play a large role when it comes to overall heart health. "This research reminds us that we should try to eat a balanced and varied diet - whether this includes meat or not,” said Parker. “But remember, choosing the veggie option on the menu is not a shortcut to a healthy heart. After all, there are still plenty of foods suitable for vegetarians that are high in saturated fat and salt.”

"If you're thinking of switching to a vegetarian diet, make sure you plan your meals carefully so that you replace any lost vitamins and minerals, such as iron, that you would normally get from meat." While this study has found vegetarians in the UK may have healthier lives, an American study released yesterday has found vegetables accounted for the most food-borne illnesses in a 10-year span. So, while a vegetarian diet may lead to a healthier heart in the UK, it could also lead to many long nights on the toilet in America.