Vegetarians at a Lower Risk for Heart Disease, Stroke

Photo: Nisha A / cc
It turns out that vegetarians might not just be sparing the lives of countless animals by cutting meat from their diets, they could actually be helping to save their own lives as well. According to a new study, research suggests that vegetarians may be at significantly less risk of developing a condition associated with heart disease and stroke than their animal-eating counterparts.

Researchers from Loma Linda University surveyed 700 adults, both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and discovered an association between a diet containing meat and an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome -- a precursor to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

According the study, there is a high rate of metabolic syndrome in the United States, though changes in dietary habits may help curb the figures.

A report from Science Daily details the study:

Metabolic syndrome is defined as exhibiting at least three out of five total risk factors: high blood pressure, elevated HDL cholesterol, high glucose levels, elevated triglycerides, and an unhealthy waist circumference. The Loma Linda University study found that while 25 percent of vegetarians had metabolic syndrome, the number significantly rises to 37 percent for semi-vegetarians and 39 percent for non-vegetarians.

"I was not sure if there would be a significant difference between vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and I was surprised by just how much the numbers contrast," says Nico S. Rizzo, PhD, who spearheaded the study. "It indicates that lifestyle factors such as diet can be important in the prevention of metabolic syndrome."

This, of course, isn't the first time researchers have found that vegetarians may have a leg-up in terms of overall health. In 2008, a study from the German Cancer Research Center discovered that vegetarians actually lived longer -- with men and woman reducing their risk of early death by a whopping 50 and 30 percent, respectively. (Oh, and they're happier, too.)

For many vegetarians, the moral and ethical questions raised by the mistreatment and slaughtering of animals were what inspired their meatless diet. Nevertheless, scientific studies, like this one, continue to suggest that adopting such a diet isn't merely good for the figurative heart -- but for the actual one as well.

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