Black Vegetarians at Lower Risk for Heart Disease

New Loma Linda University Health Study

 

LOMA LINDA, CA – April 9, 2014 – Among more than 26,000 black Seventh-day Adventists, those who are vegetarians are at lower risk for heart disease, compared with their meat-eating counterparts, according to results of a new Loma Linda University Health study.

 

African American Woman VegetarianThe study, available online now in the journal Public Health Nutrition, compared the cardiovascular risk factors between black vegetarians and non-vegetarians who are part of the ongoing Loma Linda University Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2).

 

AHS-2, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a long-running study of members throughout North America of the Seventh-day Adventist Church focusing on nutrition, lifestyle, and health outcomes. The Seventh-day Adventists are a unique study subject because they have a wide variety of dietary habits, but in general have a very low percentage of alcohol consumption or cigarette smoking, non-dietary factors that may otherwise impact the study.

 

The new results show a hierarchy of protection received by black participants in the study based on their eating habits: Vegans (those who completely abstain from meat and meat products) and lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who consume eggs and dairy) were the least at risk for cardiovascular disease; followed by semi-vegetarians (those who infrequently eat meat); pesco-vegetarians (those who eat fish); and lastly, non-vegetarians.

 

The study results show that compared with their non-vegetarian counterparts, black vegetarian Adventists were at less risk for hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure, total cholesterol, and high blood-LDL cholesterol. The study was a cross-sectional analysis of the data, and does not conclusively establish cause. In the future, the study involving black subjects also plans to look directly at heart disease experience rather than risk factors for heart disease.

 

Patti Herring, PhD, MA, RN, associate professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and one of the study’s co-investigators, said “some findings for black Adventists are promising and we are anxious to compare black Adventist health with the general population of blacks. In so doing, we suspect that black Adventists’ health will prove better in many regards, than those in the general population, particularly for the vegetarians.”

 

“There’s a growing body of evidence that vegetarian diets lower the risk for cardiovascular diseases and other diseases,” she said, noting that AHS-2 is one of the few that has such a large number of black participants, which is important since they generally have some of the worst health outcomes among minority populations.

 

The abstract of the study is available by going to this link:

 

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9205599&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S1368980014000263

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About Loma Linda University Health (LLUH)

 

Vegetarians Live Longer Than Meat-Eaters

Practitioners of a vegetarian diet were found to be 19% less likely to die from heart disease.

    ByAvery Johnson

 

Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, a Journal of the American Medical Association.

The authors tracked 73,308 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for almost six years. The church is known for promoting a vegetarian diet, though not all of its followers adhere to that teaching. Researchers found out what type of diet participants ate, then followed up to find out how many of those participants had died and how.

Vegetarians in the study experienced 12% fewer deaths over the period. Dietary choices appeared to play a big role in protecting the participants from heart disease, from which vegetarians were 19% less likely to die than meat-eaters.

There also appeared to be fewer deaths in the vegetarian group from diabetes and kidney failure.

Caloric intake didn’t seem to matter. The different participant groups generally ate around the same amount of calories daily. Researchers found that the beneficial associations weren’t related to energy intake.

The advantage appeared stronger in men than women, whose diet didn’t seem to make as much of a difference. Eating plant foods didn’t seem to protect participants against cancer, which struck both the vegetarians and non-vegetarians in roughly equal measure.

The paper, written by researchers at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, is larger and includes a more diverse population than previous research, says lead author Michael Orlich, director of the preventive medicine residency program there. “People are confronted with all sorts of nutritional information, but the bottom line is, ‘How will your diet pattern affect your risk of dying?”‘ he says.

Researchers don’t know why a plant-based diet seems to have a protective effect, but one likely reason is the nutrient profile of vegetarian diets, which tend to be higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat. Vegetarians tend to be thinner, another factor known to have an effect on health outcomes, Dr. Orlich says. He adds that the study benefited from examining a group whose rates of alcohol and tobacco use are low.

Of course, just eliminating meat from the plate doesn’t always equal a healthy meal. Vegetarian dishes—for example, a vegetable spring roll—still can be high in fats and calories. And certain meats are healthy.

When adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, nutritionists recommend watching closely to make sure the intake of key nutrients is sufficient. These include iron and zinc, frequently found in meat, and calcium and vitamin B12. Roughly 5% of Americans consider themselves to be vegetarians, according to a survey published last year by Gallup.

The Loma Linda researchers used a questionnaire to categorize participants into groups based on their diets.

The categories include nonvegetarians and people considered semi-vegetarians, who eat meat more than once a month but less than once a week. In addition to meat, vegans eliminate dairy and eggs from their diets.

Others eat fish, in addition to the cohort that eats no meat but consumes dairy and eggs. For many of the analyses, the researchers lumped all of these subsets of people together as simply “vegetarians.”

Write to Avery Johnson at

avery.johnson@WSJ.com

A version of this article appeared June 4, 2013, on page D3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Green Is Good: Vegetarians Live Longer, Study Finds.

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