For a long time vegetarians have been insisting they are healthier than their meat-eating peers. Now, finally, there's proof that they are not only healthier – they might even live longer.
A new protein-focused study shows eating more protein from vegetarian foods and less from animal foods is associated with a massive reduction in deaths from all causes including cancer and heart disease.
The study was conducted by researchers from America’s Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and followed 131 000 people over 32 years.
Read: Is my vegetarian diet balanced?
According to the study, by replacing a mere 3% of calories from processed meat with vegetarian sources of protein you can cut the risk of a developing a heart attack by 39%. And for unprocessed red meat, the reduction is 18%.
“Eating more plant protein [is] associated with a 10% lower risk of death from all causes for every 3% increment of total calories and a 12% lower risk of cardiovascular death,” the researchers said.
‘Critical for long-term health’
The lead author of the paper, Dr Mingyang Song, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told CNN their findings have important public health implications.
Read: Vegetarian: are you getting all the nutrients you need?
“They can help refine the current dietary recommendations about protein intake and really get to the point that it is not only the amount, but also the food sources of protein that are critical for long-term health.”
UK based international nutritional expert Patrick Holford agrees with Song. “In this study, having less eggs and more vegetable protein was also consistent with reduced mortality from all causes, including cancer and heart disease,” he says.
“The greatest risk, however, was in people with other unhealthy behaviours and a high intake of red and processed meat and a low intake of vegetable protein. Super-healthy lean meat eaters may not fare so badly. However, the benefit from plant-based protein foods remains a clear trend of this substantial study.”
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