Top 10 Takeaways from the Vegetarians Live Longer Study
On our Facebook page we recently posted an item from the LA Times commenting on the recent Vegetarian Diet study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The article’s headline is ‘Do you need to be a vegetarian to lead a healthy life?’ We believe the answer is no. In fact, so does Dr. Robert Baron who was interviewed by the LA Times. In the article, Dr. Baron noted that, “from a health point of view, whether or not you eat meat isn’t as important as limiting your consumption of sugary drinks, foods with added sugar, refined grains and most saturated fats and trans fats. Similarly, everyone can benefit by eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.”
We should note Dr. Baron (Robert B. Baron M.D., M.S.,) is Professor of Medicine, Vice Chief, Division of General Internal Medicine, Associate Dean for Graduate and Continuing Medical Education, and Designated Institutional Official (DIO) at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). A graduate of Princeton University (1971), Dr. Baron received a Masters Degree in Nutrition from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1974) and his M.D. Degree from UCSF (1978). Yes, he is qualified to debunk the ‘vegetarians live longer’ myth- the same one the study at the center of the article was trying to prove. Y’all know I am a huge advocate for incorporating plant based foods as a main pillar of a healthy diet, but I wanted to cut through the hype of the media claiming that a vegetarian diet makes you live longer.
Again, you can reach the link to the article via our Facebook page. But, in the meantime, here are 10 Takeaway Facts from it.
1. There are vegetarians and then there are Pesco-vegetarians. A pescetarian diet shares many of its components with a vegetarian diet and includes vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, beans, eggs, and dairy, but unlike a vegetarian diet also includes fish and shellfish. Oh, let’s not forget Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: vegetarians who do not eat animal flesh of any kind, but consume dairy and egg products. (Yes, you can be a Lacto-ovo-pesco-vegetarian too.) It is important to note the study found different results for the variations on the vegetarian diet.
2. The LA Times article refers to the JAMA study, noting, ‘Compared to the nonvegetarians, those who followed any type of vegetarian diet were 12% less likely to die of any cause during the course of the study.’ The key word is likely. Dr. Baron points out there is no real evidence to support this percentage based on a variety of subjective factors and the length of time of the study. (Basically, there are too many variables in the healthy lifestyles of the people in the study to claim their healthy is solely due to their vegetarian diet.)
3. The study followed a group of Seventh-day Adventists, thus not taking into consideration that people who practice this religion live longer than those who do not by nature of their healthier lifestyle. Most of the participants in the study had been vegetarians or vegans for many years so their health was a result of a life-time of healthy eating and living.
4. The study did not make any claims regarding a Vegan lifestyle, which could (according to the study results) add even more years to your life than a Vegetarian Diet. Why didn’t they claim the Vegan lifestyle was better than Vegetarian?
5. Better yet, pescatarians had better results than vegetarians and vegans. Why didn’t the study and the media pick up on that? Countless studies have proven that eating fish weekly provided protective health benefits.
6. The article didn’t publish the many benefits of making small lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or never smoking. The article also didn’t consider a participant’s background or lineage which play a big role in all-cause mortality, disease risk and length of life.
7. It is a known fact that reducing the amount of fatty, red meat in your diet will significantly improve your chances of avoiding cancer and heart disease. You don’t have to become a vegetarian to reduce your risk for heart disease.
8. Eating plant-based foods can reduce your risk for many diseases and chronic conditions- vegetarian or not. Beans are an excellent source of fiber, which lowers the risk for colon cancer whether you eat meat or not.
9. Sugar addiction in this country is a major and very real problem. In fact, sugar has been proven to cause more health issues than not being a vegetarian. If you want to improve your chances of living longer, eat whole foods and stay away from the processed junk and sugar.
10. So to sum it all up: A vegetarian diet (lacto-ovo-pesco included) and a vegan diet are healthy ways to eat. However, they are not the only healthy ways to eat. If you are looking to add years to your life (like the study claims), find an eating lifestyle that works for you. Meaning, find a sustainable, nutrition lifestyle that incorporate plenty of plant-based foods and other whole foods groups you want to include.