If you want to lower your risk of developing heart disease, you should consider ditching meat, according to a new report.
Researchers from the University of Oxford in England recently conducted a study, published in the British Medical Journal, to determine the association between vegetarianism and coronary heart disease.
To do so, they examined more than 48,000 people in the United Kingdom with an average age of 45 and grouped them into three categories: meat-eaters, pescetarians, and vegetarians, including vegans. The subjects were followed for about 18 years.
After analyzing the results, the team found vegetarians have a 22% lower chance of being diagnosed with coronary heart disease, compared to meat eaters. Pescetarians have a 13% reduced risk.
Conversely, the scientists said vegetarians have a 20% higher risk of stroke compared to meat eaters, while pescetarians have a “non-significant” 14% increased risk.
But vegetarians should “keep the reported stroke risk in perspective,” according to an editorial also published in the BMJ.
“It is based on results from just one study and the increase is modest relative to meat eaters: ‘equivalent to three more cases of total stroke per 1000 population over 10 years,’ said Mark Lawrence and Sarah McNaughton, professors at Deakin University in Australia who were not involved in the study.
Although the team is still exploring the link between vegetarians and higher risk of stroke, they noted vegetarians may lack B12, a nutrient that keeps the body's nerve and blood cells healthy. But they said the relationship between B12 and stroke risk is unclear.
The researchers now hope to continue their investigations to confirm their findings.
“Future work,” the authors concluded in the study, “should include further measurements of circulating levels of cholesterol subfractions, vitamin B12, amino acids, and fatty acids in the cohort to identify which factors might mediate the observed associations.”
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