PARIS – A vegetarian diet can cut the risk of heart disease by as much as 32 percent, according to a British study published on Wednesday.
Researchers who followed more than 44,500 volunteers for about 11 years on average, found vegetarians were significantly less prone to cardiac trouble. Heart disease is the largest cause of death in developed countries, claiming 65,000 lives in Britain each year.
In the 50-to-70 age group, 6.8 percent of people who ate meat or fish were hospitalized or died from heart disease, compared to 4.6 percent of vegetarians.
“We think (it) is due to their lower cholesterol and blood pressure,” said lead researcher Francesca Crowe, from the University of Oxford’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit.
A third of participants in the study, dubbed the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), the largest of its kind in Britain, were vegetarians.
Vegetarians in the study typically had a lower weight-to-height ratio and a reduced risk of developing diabetes.
The results had taken into account the effects of the participants’ age, smoking habits and alcohol use, exercise routine, educational level and income.
Ninety-seven percent of the participants were Caucasian, but there was no difference in the results for different ethnic groups.
Previous studies have found that vegetarians have a reduced rate of bowel disease and cataracts, but no difference in cancer risk from meat-eaters, said Crowe.