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February 2013

Vegetarian Diet May Lower Heart Disease Risk

Maintaining a vegetarian diet may lower the risk for heart disease, according to a new study.

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. 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. Nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian's diet are protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, riboflavin, calcium, zinc and iron.

Vegetarian diets are often high in fiber-rich bulky foods, which produce less total calories, and thus may be beneficial for obesity. High fiber influences the health of the digestive tract. Diets low in fat and saturated fat and high in fiber, fruits and vegetables may also lower blood pressure.

In a new study, researchers analyzed data on 44,561 men and women from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Oxford study. Those participants, who maintained a vegetarian diet at the beginning of the study, 34 percent, were included in the analysis. Ischemic heart disease cases were identified through death certificates and hospital records.

After an average 11.6 year follow-up period, 1,235 heart disease cases were identified. The researchers found that when compared to those who did not maintain a vegetarian diet, vegetarians had a 32 percent reduced risk of developing heart disease. Furthermore, vegetarians had a lower average body mass index (BMI), lower cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. After the researchers controlled for BMI, sex, age and smoking, vegetarians still had a substantially lower risk of ischemic heart disease.

The authors concluded that maintaining a vegetarian diet may reduce the risk for developing heart disease, likely due to its effects on BMI, cholesterol and blood pressure.

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

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  1. Crowe FL, Appleby PN, Travis RC, et al. Risk of hospitalization or death from ischemic heart disease among British vegetarians and nonvegetarians: results from the EPIC-Oxford cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan 30. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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