Do vegetarians live longer… or not?
P.D. Mangan considers the research:
“The Seventh-Day Adventists are a Christian religious denomination that advocates vegetarianism. Not all Adventists are vegetarians but the church strongly promotes the practice to its members, and to others as well. They’ve been characterized as having an “anti-meat agenda”.
Some studies done in Seventh-Day Adventists have found lower mortality rates in the vegetarians among them.
However, a recent meta-analysis (analysis of other studies) found “that there is modest cardiovascular benefit, but no clear reduction in overall mortality associated with a vegetarian diet. This evidence of benefit is driven mainly by studies in SDA [Seventh-Day Adventists], whereas the effect of vegetarian diet in other cohorts remains unproven.”
The study found that the only evidence of “modest” benefit was in studies using Adventists.
Adventists also have a high intake of fruits and vegetables, are encouraged to abstain from alcohol and smoking, they have a low divorce rate and of course are religious.
All of these factors could help explain better health among them, with vegetarianism playing little to no role.
Likewise, non-Adventist vegetarians are more likely to have all of these factors also. Less smoking and drinking, more exercise, less likely to be overweight, in general, to be much more health conscious. Studies that have found better health among vegetarians that did not correct for these factors haven’t truly isolated the factor of vegetarianism.”
I believe most “scientific studies” are bunk as controlling for the huge amount of variables can be more of an art than a science. The whole “red meat will kill you!” thing, for instance. At least one study comparing vegetarians with red meat eaters apparently failed to control for other lifestyle choices such as smoking, overeating, etc. When you have fat, smoking meat-eaters in one camp and fit vegetarians in another, it’s not a good comparison. At that point you have too many factors that need to be controlled for. I stick to what is basically a paleo diet myself and don’t worry a bit about red meat, fat or dairy. Along with meat, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, no fast food, very little sugar, and good, black coffee.
I highly doubt I’m in worse shape than the average vegetarian – and I’ll bet I eat better produce.