Benefits Of A Vegetarian Diet Include Reduced Diabetes And Heart Disease Risk
There’s new research that finds one of the benefits of a vegetarian diet is a lower risk of having some of the risk factors for both diabetes and heart disease, a condition known as metabolic syndrome. The study, showed an association between what we choose to eat (or not eat) and health, but not a cause-and-effect relationship.
With current estimates having 50 million American’s living with potentially dangerous metabolic syndrome, researchers are working hard to find more ways to prevent this disorder.
Lifestyle factors, it seems, are rather powerful indeed.
To conduct the work, researchers analyzed the eating patterns, lifestyles and general health of over 700 adults randomly selected from an existing health study.
Using questionnaires, the team collected information on participants’ eating habits and then categorized the subjects as either vegetarians (eating meat less than once monthly); semi-vegetarians (those who ate meat/poultry less than one time a week); and meat eaters. Of the total, 35 % were vegetarians, far higher than the 5 % of the general U.S. population.
The team looked at many factors; waist size, body mass, blood pressure, blood sugar and blood fats. Having three out of the five risk factors is enough to confirm worrisome metabolic syndrome is present, and this puts you at higher risk of developing either diabetes and/or heart disease, or having a stroke sometime in the future.
Vegetarians’ BMIs were lower by 4 points than non-vegetarians, and were lower than meat eaters on all measures, except cholesterol. In fact 23 out of a 100 vegetarians had at least 3 metabolic syndrome markers, compared to 39 out of a 100 non-vegetarians. Semi-vegetarians had 37 out of a 100 with at least three markers of metabolic syndrome. The results held up even after being adjusted for things like age, race, gender, physical activity, calorie intake, alcohol intake and smoking.
The researchers were expecting there might be some difference between vegetarians and others, just not that striking.
Interesting too that the vegetarians in the study were not only on average 3 years more senior than those who ate meat, but they were in better physical shape. Hard to argue with that.
The researchers are not sure what’s behind all this. It could be the meat intake … or the plant based foods eaten so regularly by the vegetarians … or even some combination. Researchers have yet to explain it all. As an example, another symptom of metabolic syndrome, high BMI, also plays a role in hypertension, and more indirectly to blood sugar … potentially raising your risk of both heart disease and diabetes, so more work needs to be done before we fully understand all that’s at work here.
What we do know is that lifestyle changes are the first line therapy when it comes to addressing the risks of metabolic syndrome, as well as the condition itself. You’ll want to lose the extra weight, get more active (30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days) and pay attention to what you put into your body – you don’t have to totally swear off meat to get the benefits of a vegetarian diet … just adding lots of veggies and fruits them to your diet on a regular basis is just fine too.