The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published findings from a survey in England and Scotland showing that people consuming a vegetarian diet are 32% less likely to die of or be treated in a hospital for heart disease. The survey sampled 44,500 people, and scientists believe that the differences may be due to the differences in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body weight experienced between omnivorous eaters and those who shun meat and fish. Another study run by the University of Oxford examined data collected over 11 years from 15,100 vegetarians and 29,400 people who consumed both meat and fish as part of their regular diet. Throughout the study, 160 people died of heart disease, and 1,066 needed hospital treatment for the condition. It found that these people were more likely to have been the meat and fish eaters than the vegetarians.
Heart disease affects most Western nations, killing more people in the United Kingdom each year than any other disease, while 2.6 million people live with heart conditions. Heart disease occurs when the blood supply for the heart is obstructed by fat deposits in arteries. When these arteries become completely blocked, it can cause angina or heart attack. The vegetarians studied had lower blood pressure, lower “bad” cholesterol levels, and lower weights falling in the healthy range. Dr. Francesca Crowe emphasized how important these findings are in demonstrating that diet can directly impact your heart health. Tracy Parker of the British Heart Foundation reminded people to eat a well-balanced diet, even if it includes meat and highlighted that eating low salt, and low saturated fat is just as important as cutting meat out of your diet. People making the transition to vegetarianism should be sure to find ways to supplement diets with new foods to replace vitamins and minerals they normally receive from meat consumption, including iron.