Delicious Living Blog

Vegetables vs. meat: More health evidence stacks up

From where I sit, the writing on the wall keeps getting clearer: A vegetarian diet is a pathway toward greater health that more people are choosing to take—and even greater numbers may be compelled to try, to reverse or mitigate scary diagnoses like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

From where I sit (granted, at my editor’s desk in health-conscious Boulder, Colorado) the writing on the wall keeps getting clearer: A vegetarian diet is a pathway toward greater health that more people are choosing to take—and even greater numbers may be compelled to try, in an effort to reverse or mitigate scary diagnoses like type 2 diabetes.

In a study published in Diabetes Care this week, vegetarians scored much better on the handful of factors—blood sugar, blood fats, blood pressure, waist size, and body mass—that together can create metabolic syndrome, or prediabetes. (Cholesterol was the only count where they weren’t lower than nonvegetarians.)  "Even after the findings were adjusted for physical activity, gender, age, calorie and alcohol intake, the results persisted and remained significant," says lead researcher Nico Rizzo of Loma Linda University.

Interesting study tidbits:

  1. Of more than 700 study subjects, 23 of every 100 vegetarians had at least three metabolic syndrome factors, compared to 37 of every 100 semi-vegetarians (eating meat or poultry less than once a week) and 39 of every 100 nonvegetarians. As someone who eats essentially no red meat, and chicken about once a week, I was surprised semi-vegetarians’ health stats weren’t much better than nonvegetarians. So much for moderation!
  2. The vegetarians in the study were three years older than the nonvegetarians, on average—which makes their robustness even more impressive. 
  3. The study didn’t specify whether the vegetarians were lacto-vegetarian (eating dairy) or not. Rizzo says his team plans to look more specifically at vegan and lacto-ovo individuals, and overall nutrient content of the diets in future studies.

Coming on the heels of last month’s news of a major National Cancer Institute-led study that found older adults who ate the most fiber—especially from whole grains and beans—were 22 percent less likely to die during the nine-year study period, I personally feel more convinced than ever that eating more vegetables and less meat will improve my wellbeing.

There’s plenty of room for debate on this. Delicious Living’s eminently well-informed and experienced medical editor, Robert Rountree, MD, often reminds me that individuals’ genetics are probably the strongest indicator of what type of diet they best tolerate. And don’t even ask my Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncturist, who never fails to encourage me to build my blood by eating just a little red meat, maybe a nice broth or a stew…  

 

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