Cutting back on animal products lowers risk of death by 30% – study

Heart attack: Experts claim a vegan diet can 'help prevent' them

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Diet plays a huge role in our health and wellbeing. Without certain vitamins and nutrients we can succumb to certain illnesses, while eating too much fatty and sugary foods can cause problems. However, research has shown eating animal products can also impact your longevity.

A study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that switching to a more plant-based diet can lower your risk of dying from a range of conditions and illnesses by 30 percent.

The report, which was compiled by researchers at several universities across Spain, explains: “Vegetarian diets have been associated with reduced mortality.

“Because a pure vegetarian diet might not easily be embraced by many individuals, consuming preferentially plant-derived foods would be a more easily understood message.

“A pro-vegetarian food pattern emphasising preference for plant-derived foods might reduce all-cause mortality.”

As part of the research the team studied 7,216 participants with a high risk of cardiovascular illnesses for an average of just under five years.

They were asked to complete a food-frequency questionnaire at the beginning of the study and every year afterwards.

“Added animal fats, eggs, fish, dairy products, and meats or meat products were negatively weighted,” it says.

“Energy-adjusted quintiles were used to assign points to build the pro-vegetarian food pattern.

“Deaths were confirmed by review of medical records and the National Death Index.”

Among the participants there were 323 deaths in the time period studied – 76 from cardiovascular causes, 130 from cancer and 117 for non-cancer, non-cardiovascular causes.

The study concludes: “Higher baseline conformity with the pro-vegetarian food pattern was associated with lower mortality.

“Among omnivorous subjects at high cardiovascular risk, better conformity with a food pattern that emphasised plant-derived foods was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality.”

It suggests that making beneficial dietary changes can be “modest”.

“The present results support a relative reduction in the risk of death from any cause of greater than or equal to 30 percent associated with only a modest decrease in the consumption of animal foods together with compensatory increases in plant-based foods.

“This modest change is realistic, affordable, and achievable because it represents the observed food pattern in a sizable proportion of our cohort.

“The pro-vegetarian food pattern does not mean a radical shift to the exclusive consumption of plant foods but a more gradual and gentle approach.

“All of these reasons increase the translational potential of our results into health and nutrition policies.”

To make a switch to a more plant-based lifestyle, the Vegetarian Society recommends the following protein-rich foods as meat alternatives:

  • Beans (including baked beans, chickpeas, butter beans and kidney beans)
  • Tofu
  • Nuts
  • Veggie mince, sausages, fillets and burgers found in supermarkets.

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