More and more baby boomers are turning to a vegetarian diet as a means of slowing aging and staving off the illnesses associated with it, according to an article in The Washington Post. A recent 2012 Harris Poll conducted for the Vegetarian Resource Group found that 2.5 million Americans over the age of 55 have made the lifestyle change.
Interest is growing both as a result of new research which has surfaced in the past few years highlighting its health benefits, and because a number of baby boomer celebrities including Bill Clinton (65), Paul McCartney (70), Martina Navratilova (55), and Ian McKellen (73) have publicly embraced a vegetarian diet, according to the article.
Research has shown that a vegetarian diet may reduce incidence of premature death as well as colon cancer, for example. Red meat is especially dangerous.
One huge study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that eating just one serving per day (the size of a deck of cards) of unprocessed red meat increased your risk of premature death by 13 percent. If that meat was processed (bacon, sausage, etc) then your risk increased by 20 percent.
Another study found that meat consumption may increase your risk of colorectal cancer. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that "results demonstrate the potential value of examining long-term meat consumption in assessing cancer risk and strengthen the evidence that prolonged high consumption of red and processed meat may increase the risk of cancer in the distal portion of the large intestine."
The Harvard Health Guide provided a stern warning regarding colon cancer and meat consumption:
A meta-analysis of 29 studies of meat consumption and colon cancer concluded that a high consumption of red meat increases risk by 28%, and a high consumption of processed meat increases risk by 20%.
Sylvia Escott-Stump, president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) says that vegetarian baby boomers should ensure that they get enough crucial nutrients like zinc, calcium, protein, and B12, according to the article. “These nutrients are especially important in aging to support wound-healing and to keep a healthy immune system,” says Escott-Stump to The Washington Post.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article implied human intestinal tracks are not designed for easy meat digestion. This information was cut due to outstanding questions regarding its validity.