People who follow a vegetarian diet have a 32% lower risk of dying or having to be hospitalized for ischemic heart disease compared to those who eat meat or fish. This is shown by the results of a study carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) and published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“The difference in risk between vegetarians and non-vegetarians is largely explained by the effects of diet on cholesterol and blood pressure. In short, our results confirm the important role of diet in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, “reports Dr. Francesca Crowe, director of the research.
To carry out the study, the researchers analyzed the medical records of 44,561 British men and women registered in the European Prospective Study on Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), of whom up to 34% of the participants were vegetarian. During the 11.6 years of study follow-up, 1,066 participants were admitted as a result of ischemic heart disease and 169 died from the disease.
The results showed that vegetarians had a lower body mass index (BMI), lower levels of non-HDL cholesterol – that is, ‘bad’ cholesterol – and lower numbers of systolic blood pressure (SBP). And as a whole, after analyzing other risk factors –such as age, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, educational level and socioeconomic level–, the vegetarian population had a 32% lower risk of ischemic heart disease.
Furthermore, and ruling out BMI as a risk factor, people who did not eat meat or fish continued to have a significantly lower risk of ischemic heart disease – up to 28% less.
In short, the authors conclude, «our findings suggest that a vegetarian diet can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, currently the leading cause of death in developed countries; and is that in the United Kingdom alone ischemic heart disease is responsible for 65,000 deaths annually.