Bad News for Vegetarians – Risky Health Issues on the Way

I’m not a vegetarian. Even though I must confess I’ve tried to be once in my life, but it was impossible for me to live without my meat recipes. However, I know many people that have decided to become vegetarians mainly for health issues: starting with the need for weight loss and to continue with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and other risks on coronary issues. Till now, everything was OK for myself and my friends, each of us with own food choices.

Yesterday, I was reading an article at CNN that could put in question my friends’ choice to become vegetarians. In a recent study published only two days ago in the BMJ, were studied the relation of types of diets with cardio-vascular diseases. Out of 48,188 participants in the study, all from UK, were created three groups: meat-eaters (around 50%), fish-eaters (15.7%) and the rest were vegetarians and vegans. All participants in the study were people that had no history with heart diseases. Scientists of EPIC-Oxford followed the population of the study for 18 years, registering what happened with their health. Look what they found out:

Results of the Study:

I. Fish eaters have 13% lower rates of ischemic heart diseases than meat-eaters.

II. Vegetarians (vegan included) had 22% lower rates of ischemic heart disease than meat eaters. 

III. Vegetarians (vegan included) had 20% higher rates of total stroke than meat-eaters, mostly due to a higher rate of hemorrhagic stroke.

Scientist think that this higher risk on stroke rates for non-meat eaters is caused mainly due to the low level of good cholesterol (HDL), as well as lower levels of Vitamin B12 and D1, caused from the vegetarian diet and which should be completed with supplements.

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The findings of this study go in opposite directions: firstly, the study confirms the theory that meat-eaters do face higher risk for heart diseases; and secondly, declares that non-meat eaters might be at higher risk from stroke, especially hemorrhagic stroke. The opposition of these two findings brings confusion to common people, on whether to become vegetarians or not. Is their health going to improve if they become vegetarians? They might have less problems with their heart, but stroke is not at all an easier health issue to deal with.

Scientists’ community is confused too about these findings. Some of them are speaking against such findings, some of them are speechless for the moment, and a smaller group is supporting the new findings. However, we have to say that it is not yet the case to panic. This study is done only with British vegetarians, and they do not represent the biggest and oldest population of vegetarians in the world. Researchers recommend to do similar studies with participation of Asiatic populations, the biggest vegetarian population in the world. Should they confirm the same findings, than young generation, who is more keen to embrace the new tendencies about diets and food, has to think twice before deciding to become vegetarians; at least their health arguments might not be as strong as believed so far.

However, one advice is valid all the time for meat-eaters:

Avoid processed red meat as much as you can (less hot dogs, less bacon and less salami in your diet).

Recent studies continue to confirm that higher consumption of red meat in general, and processed red meat in particular, do increase by 13% the risk for deaths in young age.

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