Healthy vegetarian diet linked to lower risk of death from any cause

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Adhering to a healthy vegetarian diet may help slash a person’s death risk later in life. Image credit: d3sign/Getty Images.
  • A new study finds that adhering to a healthy plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk of death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease among older people.
  • However, an unhealthy plant-based diet increases one’s risk of these conditions, the findings showed.
  • The study found no significant association between a mixed plant- and animal-based diet and a change in all-cause or specific cause mortality risk.
  • No meaningful connection between any plant-based diets and risk of death from cancer was observed in this study.

There are ethical and environmental reasons to switch to a more plant-centric diet, as well as a growing body of research suggesting such diets are better for our health. However, a full understanding of the long-term benefits of such diets takes time to establish.

A new study from Spain looks specifically at the effect of plant-based diets on longevity by assessing their impact on the incidence of all-cause death and deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer in older people.

The study is published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging.

Using data from the European Eye Study (EUREYE), the authors of the new study investigated connections between three types of plant-based diets and mortality among 597 of its participants. Of this cohort from the Spanish province of Alicante, 54.3% were female and all were age 65 or older.

The researchers tracked the participants’ dietary habits via questionnaires, with information on deaths among the group from governmental records over a 12-year follow-up period.

The researchers categorized each person’s pro-vegetarian (PVG) diet into one of three categories:

  • hPVG, for “healthy pro-vegetarian” diet
  • uPVG, for “unhealthy pro-vegetarian” diet
  • gPVG, for “general pro-vegetarian” diet.

The healthy pro-vegetarian and unhealthy pro-vegetarian diet definitions were developed by A. Satija in 2016. The general pro-vegetarian diet was defined by M.A. Martínez-González in 2014.

The new study found that, compared to those with the lowest adherence, people who adhered moderately to the healthy pro-vegetarian diet experienced a 41% lower risk of all-cause mortality and a 53% lower risk of CVD mortality.

Underscoring that there is more to nutrition than simply whether it is plant-based or not, people who most closely followed an unHealthy pro-vegetarian diet had a 53% increased risk of all-cause death and a 110% increased risk of death from CVD.

Adherence to a general pro-vegetarian diet was not associated in this study with all-cause or a specific type of mortality. The study says this has also been reported in other research.

No association between any of the diets and the likelihood of dying from cancer was observed by the researchers.

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