A recently released Scottish study indicates that vegetarians are generally healthier than meat eaters, regardless of their age, gender, weight, alcohol consumption or smoking level.
Researchers from Glasgow University in Scotland studied the diets of 177,723 British residents between the ages of 37 and 73 for five years. Among them, 4,111 were vegetarians (consuming a diet without red meat, poultry and fish).
According to their findings, vegetarians appear to be in better health than meat eaters, regardless of age, weight, smoking and alcohol intake. These results were presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO).
By analyzing blood and urine samples from the candidates, the researchers examined the relationship of each diet on 19 biomarkers related to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver, bone and joint health and kidney function. They concluded that vegetarians had "significantly lower levels of 13 biomarkers, including total cholesterol," based on what they observed.
Vegetables, fruits and nuts: a winning combo for health
"As well as not eating red and processed meat which have been linked to heart diseases and some cancers, people who follow a vegetarian diet tend to consume more vegetables, fruits, and nuts which contain more nutrients, fibre, and other potentially beneficial compounds," said Dr. Carlos Celis-Morales of the University of Glasgow. "These nutritional differences may help explain why vegetarians appear to have lower levels of disease biomarkers that can lead to cell damage and chronic disease."
However, vegetarians were found to have lower levels of some health-promoting biomarkers such as "good cholesterol" and vitamin D. In addition, the scientists noted "significantly higher levels of fat (triglycerides) in the blood and cystatin-C," suggesting poor kidney condition.
The researchers remain cautious, pointing out that their study was observational and that they tested the samples only once per participant.