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June 2013

Vegetarian Diet Linked To Reduced Mortality

A recent study has linked a vegetarian diet to possible benefits in lowering rates of all-cause and cause-specific mortality.

Eating a diet that is low in fat and high in nutritional value has long been advocated by many major US health organizations as a key component to staving off heart disease, type II diabetes, stroke, and most other adult-onset chronic diseases. Even when people eat fewer high fat foods, they can still eat in an unhealthy manner by consuming foods that are high in starch, sugars, and protein, but devoid of more complete nutritional value. The USDA recommends that patients choosing a low fat diet also eat plenty of foods with documented nutritional value, such as vegetables, low fat dairy products, and whole-grains.

Vegetarianism is a dietary practice characterized by the consumption of only vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains and pulses, and excluding the consumption of all body parts of any animal and products derived from animal carcasses (such as lard, tallow, gelatin, cochineal), from one's diet.

Previous evidence suggests that a vegetarian diet may be linked to reduced mortality. To explore this possible benefit, researchers analyzed data from the Adventist Health Study 2. Information on dietary patterns was collected from 73,308 men and women between 2002 and 2007. The study divided the patterns into five groups: non-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian (consumption of seafood), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (consumption of dairy products and eggs), and vegan (no consumption of animal products). The researchers compared the findings from this study to rates of mortality through 2009 from the National Death Index.

A total of 2,570 deaths occurred during the follow-up of 5.79 years. The researchers found a significant association between vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality related to heart disease, kidney disease, endocrine diseases, and other causes not related to the heart or cancer. They found that the association was larger and more significant for men than for women.

The research team concluded that vegetarian diets may be linked to lower rates of all-cause and cause-specific mortality, and that this association may be more significant in men. Further study is needed to confirm and better understand these findings.

The American Dietetic Association states that a well-planned vegetarian diet can be consistent with good nutritional intake. Dietary recommendations vary with the type of vegetarian diet. For children and adolescents these diets require special planning since it may be difficult to obtain all the nutrients required for growth and development.

For more information about vegetarianism, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabaté J, et al. Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():1-8. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473.

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