A new US study suggests that vegetarians may be at significantly lower risk of developing a condition associated with heart disease, diabetes and stroke than people who eat meat.
Researchers found that vegetarians experience a 36% lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease, diabetes and stroke than non-vegetarians.
To measure metabolic syndrome, researchers tested for 5 risk factors : high blood pressure, high HDL cholesterol, high glucose levels, elevated triglycerides and unhealthy waist circumference.
"I wasn't sure if there would be a significant difference between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and I was surprised by just how much the numbers of contrast," said lead researcher Nico S. Rizzo, PhD of Loma Linda University in the US.
Another study supporting trending towards a plant-based diet, from the German Cancer Research Centre in 2008, found that vegetarians reduced their risks of an early death by 50% for men and 30% for women.
A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry earlier this year also found that meat eaters had significantly higher cardiovascular risk factors than vegetarians, although it also revealed that a vegan diet, which eliminates all animal products, may increase people's risk of blood clots and the hardening of arteries.
Vegetarians exclude meant, poultry, and fish from their diet but tend to eat eggs and dairy products.
Vegans, on the other hand, abstain from eggs and dairy products, as well as meant, poultry and fish.
Researchers in the vegan study noted that strict vegan diets tend to lack key nutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower the risk of heart-related diseases.
Vegetarians and vegans can ensure the health benefits of their diets by filling their plates with good sources of mega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and for vegetarians, omega-3 enriched eggs.
(Source adapted from The Sun newspaper dated 22/4/2011)