According to the researchers, people who are on a vegan or vegetarian diet have a lower risk of heart disease, but they are more likely to experience a stroke. This translates into an additional three strokes among 1,000 people, compared to people who eat meat. The researchers came to these conclusions based on an eighteen-year-old study in which the diet and health of 48000 people were monitored. The results were published in the British Medical Journal.
What is the study about?
Participants joined the study determining the impact of diet on health between 1993 and 2001. Half of them were meat-eaters, slightly more than 16,000 people described themselves as vegetarians or vegans, and 7,500 people as pescetarians, meaning people who do not eat any meat except fish. Over the years, participants were observed: their diet, but also their medical history, smoking, and physical activity levels.
In the indicated research group, there were 2820 cases of coronary artery disease, and 1072 cases of stroke – including 300 hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when weakened blood vessels burst.
At the end of the study, pescetarianswere found to have a 13% lower risk of coronary artery disease than meat-eaters, and vegetarians and vegans had an even greater 22% advantage over carnivores. This is not the first time that it has been suggested that diet limiting animal protein intake reduces the risk of some chronic diseases, but the results have not been so obvious.
According to researchers, people on plant-based diets had a 20% higher risk of stroke. However, you should be aware that this may not be the result of a cause and effect relationship because the study was only observational.
What kind of diet is best then?
The authors of the study explain that they do not want to discourage you from eating a diet that limits meat consumption, but they encourage a more thoughtful composition of the daily menu, which is based on a variety of foods. The problem of repetitive, nutrient-poor meals can affect both vegetarians and carnivores. You need to make sure that you consume all the vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, etc. from different sources of food.
The basis of a healthy diet is consuming at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Also important is fiber, present in bread, rice, healthy fats, and protein: from meat, fish, seafood, legumes, and nuts.
People who are on diets that eliminate specific foods, such as vegetarianism and veganism, should pay more attention to the nutritional content of foods. The biggest problem may be supplementing the demand for vitamin B12 – although it is increasingly artificially added to vegetarian products (which is not necessarily so beneficial). You should also remember about eating foods rich in iron, which vegetarians can obtain, among others from legumes, and choline contained in cauliflower, broccoli.
The idea is simple, ideally, you shall provide all the important nutrients from the diet; however, if your diet fails to do so you must turn to supplements.
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