Study: Vegetarians live longer, men get best results

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A vegetarian diet may help people, particularly men, live longer than those who regularly eat meat, according to a study of more than 70,000 Seventh-Day Adventists.

Researchers followed the participants an average of 6 years. During that period, vegetarians, including those who also added seafood or dairy and egg products to their diet, had an average 12 percent lower chance of dying from any cause than meat-eaters, according to the findings published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study also found that male vegetarians were less likely to die from heart disease than non-vegetarians, while there were no similar results in women.

Vegetarian diets have been associated with a reduction in chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The latest findings confirm earlier studies that show the benefits of eating a vegetarian diet, said Michael Orlich, the lead study author.

"People should take these kinds of results into account as they're considering dietary choices," said Orlich, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Loma Linda University, a Seventh-Day Adventist institution in Loma Linda, Calif., in a May 31 telephone interview. "Various types of vegetarian diets may be beneficial in reducing the risk of death compared to non-vegetarian diets."

It's not clear whether avoiding red and processed meats plays a role in boosting life or whether the foods that vegetarians are eating lowers their risk of dying compared with non-vegetarians, Orlich said. He said he is planning a study to help identify which foods are explaining these results.