Do vegetarians live longer?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Do vegetarians live longer?” and will discuss the reasons why vegetarians live longer than non-vegetarians.

Do vegetarians live longer?

Yes, vegetarians live longer. 83 years against 73 years: that’s the average life expectancy difference between vegetarian and non-vegetarian males studied by Loma Linda University’s team of researchers in the US. For women, being vegetarian extended their lives by 6 years, allowing them to live to an average age of 85 (1).

Over 14 years, researchers at Loma Linda University studied the diets, lifestyles, and illnesses of 34,000 Seventh-day Adventists in the United States. This Christian sect promotes a vegetarian diet as well as abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Because most Adventists don’t smoke or drink, they are excellent subjects for big population studies. Now they can see how their other lifestyle decisions, especially nutritional ones, affect their health and lifespan (1).

According to the results of the research, five practices may significantly increase your lifespan. They’d described themselves as the following (1):

·         Plant-based diet

·         Frequent consumption of nuts (about five times a week)

·         Physical activity

·         Abstinence from tobacco use

·         Maintaining a healthy weight

Vegetarian Adventists also eat more fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, legumes, and nuts, but they eat eggs and doughnuts and drink coffee less frequently. They are more likely to choose whole-grain bread than white bread, and are much less likely to consume any alcohol. They also ate commercial, plant-based protein foods (meat analogues) more frequently, no doubt in part as alternatives for meat (1).

A decade more of life might be yours if you follow these lifestyle recommendations, according to the findings. They individually add up to an average of 2–3 more years, and the best part is that they add up.

This is supported by newer research from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Healthy habits including eating well, exercising, avoiding smoking, and drinking moderately or not at all may add ten years or more to your life expectancy. All five factors were shown to increase life expectancy, but experts feel that eating a healthy, plant-based diet, in particular one rich in whole foods, is the most essential (2).

The nutritional value of a plant-based diet extends well beyond the essential vitamins and minerals it contains. Fiber, resistant starch, and powerful plant components including antioxidants and phytochemicals are all found in high concentrations in fruits and vegetables. Plant-based diets include less saturated fats and cholesterol; thus they have advantages over animal-based diets as well (2).

However, it is mentioned that plant proteins are not complete, like animal proteins. That means they do not contain all of the twenty-plus types of amino acids needed to make new protein. Plant proteins are incomplete, lacking one or more essential amino acids; those are the ones we can’t make from scratch or from other amino acids. That’s why vegetarians need to eat combinations that complement each other, such as rice and beans, peanut butter and bread, and tofu and brown rice (2).

And turning green is supported by a variety of other factors as well. Some of the world’s earliest societies have documented links between plant-based diets and long life. The traditional Mediterranean diet is known for its abundance of vegetables, whereas traditional Okinawan Japanese cuisine emphasizes entire foods (2).

However, other recent studies show different results. A descriptive review summarized mortality risk in vegetarians and nonvegetarians from prospective cohort studies with a particularly high percentage of vegetarians (between 40 and 60%). It showed a similar life-span in vegetarians and nonvegetarians with comparable lifestyle backgrounds. When compared with regular meat eaters (defined as those eating meat at least once a week), occasional meat eaters had the lowest all-cause mortality, followed by fish eaters and ovo lacto-vegetarians (6).

Reasons: why vegetarians live longer?

Low blood pressure

According to a recent study, vegetarians not only have on average lower blood pressure but vegetarian diets might also be utilized to treat high blood pressure.

Randomized clinical trials have demonstrated a significant decrease in blood pressure following the institution of a vegetarian diet in both hypertensive and normotensive patients. Evidence supports a multifactorial mechanism centered on diet-associated weight loss, with one study showing an overall decrease in the incidence of hypertension from 40.5% to 18.9% among patients who maintained a weight loss of 2.4 kg throughout 7 years of follow-up (3).

Lower risk of death

 A meta-analysis of 5 prospective studies involving more than 76,000 patients showed 31% less death from ischemic heart disease among male vegetarians as compared with nonvegetarians, and 21% less in female vegetariansIn a study of over 70,000 participants conducted in 2013, vegetarians had a 12% lower mortality rate than non-vegetarians. Vegetarians may have a decreased overall risk of chronic illness because they consume less saturated fat and cholesterol, which block arteries (3).

Better moods

Researchers in 2012 found that eating a high-fat, high-fish, or vegetarian diet was associated with better emotions among research participants. The vegetarian diet improved people’s mood more than the other two diets after two weeks, according to the study’s findings.

Less risk of heart disease

Vegetarians had a 32% lower risk of developing ischemic heart disease, according to a 2013 study involving 44,000 adults.

Country-to-country surveys of protein consumption and heart disease hint that the more plant protein in the diet, the less heart disease, and the more animal protein, the more heart disease. In an analysis among more than 43,000 men, intake of total protein was minimally associated with heart disease risk, while intake of protein from meat was associated with higher risk (2).

Lower cancer risk

Researchers at Loma Linda University in California examined the relationship between various vegetarian diets and cancer risk in adults with low overall cancer risk and found that a vegetarian diet may have protective effects. Vegans had the lowest cancer risk, particularly for malignancies most frequent in women, such as breast cancer, even if the data isn’t conclusive (4).

A study led by Dr. Ornish and his colleagues found that after only two weeks on a plant-based diet, men who had been vegan for a year had an eight-fold increase in cancer-fighting capacity in their bloodstreams. The before and after photos can be seen right here. This study will warm your heart if you or someone you know has ever suffered a cancer scare. It’s because there’s actual hope — something you can do to avoid contracting “the big C.” (5).

Lower risk of diabetes

Vegetarians have been proven to have a decreased chance of acquiring diabetes, according to research. It will not cure the condition, but by helping you maintain your weight and improve your blood sugar management, the diet may minimize your risk.

Observational studies have consistently demonstrated that patients with either normal glycemic control or prediabetes who adhere to vegetarian diets are half as likely to develop diabetes mellitus as those eating omnivorously, while clinical trials in diabetes have shown significant improvements in glycemic control on both vegetarian and vegan diets as compared to conventionally prescribed diabetic diets or no nutritional intervention (3).

A decreased risk of obesity

 Studies suggest that vegetarians are thinner and have lower cholesterol and body mass index than meat-eating people (BMI). Vegetarian diets may help people lose weight and keep it off in the long run, according to some research.

Numerous studies have noted a significant association between vegetable-based diets and lower weight and demonstrated a 5-unit body-mass index (BMI) difference between patients eating no animal products and omnivorous controls. Tthe weight loss experienced in adopting a vegetarian diet involves a number of interrelated metabolic processes. Increased dietary fiber and complex carbohydrate intake coupled with decreased dietary protein collectively translate to delayed gastric emptying, increased transit time, earlier satiety, lower total caloric intake, and increased post-prandial energy expenditures during digestion (3).

Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.

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Conclusion

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Do vegetarians live longer?” and will discuss the reasons why vegetarians live longer than non-vegetarians.

References

  1. Fraser, Gary E. Diet, life expectancy, and chronic disease: studies of Seventh-Day Adventists and other vegetarians. Oxford University Press, 2003..
  2. Willett, Walter, and Patrick J. Skerrett. Eat, drink, and be healthy: the Harvard Medical School guide to healthy eating. Simon and Schuster, 2017.
  3. Graffeo, C. Is there evidence to support a vegetarian diet in common chronic diseases? New York, NY: Clin Corr, 2013.
  4. Tantamango-Bartley, Yessenia, et al. Vegetarian Diets and the Incidence of Cancer in a Low-risk PopulationCancer and Vegetarian Diets. Cancer epidemiol biom prev, 2013, 22, 286-294.
  5. Silverstone, Alicia. The kind diet: A simple guide to feeling great, losing weight, and saving the planet. Rodale, 2011.
  6. Norman, Kristina, and Susanne Klaus. Veganism, aging and longevity: new insight into old concepts. Curr Op Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2020, 23, 145-150.