An article in Today’s Dietitian reported the results of the Adventist Health Study-2, and the results solidify the health benefits of a plant-based diet. This study started in 2002 and followed 96,000 Adventist participants in the United States and Canada, which makes this study one of the most comprehensive diet studies out there.
The reason why the Seventh-day Adventist population is so interesting is that they have healthful life style practices, which includes not smoking, or drinking alcohol. Also, as many as 35% of Adventists are vegetarians. They also have lower risk for heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and arthritis as a population. All these factors allow researchers to investigate different dietary patterns and effected health outcomes.
The study categorized participants into vegans who eat no animal products, lacto-ovo vegetarians who eat no meat but eat eggs and dairy, pesco- vegetarians who eat fish but no other meat, semi-vegetarians who eat meat less than one time per week, and none vegetarians who eat meat at least once per week. Many linear relationships have been observed:
· BMI: There is a progressive weight increase from vegan to a nonvegetarian diet. With vegans having the lowest weight, followed by lacto-ovo vegetarians, Pesco-vegetarians, semivegetarians, and finally nonvegetarians with the highest weight.
· Heart disease risk: Same trend was observed here, with vegans demonstrating the lowest heart disease risk factors including cholesterol, blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes when compared to nonvegetarians.
· Type 2 Diabetes: The prevalence in vegans and Lacto-ovo vegetarians is one half that of nonvegetarians. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is 2.9% in vegans, 3.2% in lacto-ovo vegetarians, 4.8% in pesco-vegetarians, 6.1% in semi vegetarians, and 7.6% in nonvegetarians.
· Inflammation: C-reactive protein, which is a measure of inflammation, had a progressive number from vegans to nonvegetarians, with highest inflammation in nonvegetarians.
· Cancer: All vegetarians have a 8% reduction risk in cancer, with vegans having the lowest risk. For cancers of the GI tract, vegetarians had a 24% reduction risk, and for respiratory system cancers vegetarians had a 23% reduction risk.
· Longevity: There is a 12% reduction in mortality when comparing vegetarians to nonvegetarians.
· Sustainability: Greenhouse gas emissions for vegans are 41.7% less than when compared with nonvegetarians. Lacto-ovo Vegetarians have a 27.8% lower, pesco- vegetarian diet 23.8% lower, semivegatarian at about 20% lower greenhouse gas emissions.
As you can see there are many reasons to consider eliminating meat from your diet, even if it is to one time per week, you will see health benefits.
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