For many years, it has been a common belief that switching to a vegetarian diet is better for you, particularly in regards to its contribution to lowering ischemic heart disease. And it seems that this is more than just a trend: more and more people have been making the switch to vegetarianism and veganism; or, at least, dramatically cutting down on the animal protein in their diet.
However, a new—and quite large and long-term—study has recently concluded that vegetarians may actually be at a higher risk for stroke than those who eat meat. It seems that the great rise in popularity for this lifestyle has helped to motivate more research into its exact health benefits and, more importantly, possible complications.
The EPIC-Oxford study examined more than 48,000 people over the age of 18 in the United Kingdom. The cohort included people who followed a few specific diets, including non-meat eaters, between 1993 and 2001. These participants were then divided into three groups: meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians/vegans.
Sure enough, the study showed that non-red-meat-eaters had better outcomes. Fish eaters, vegetarians, and vegans all had lower rates of heart disease than meat eaters. At the same time, the data also revealed something new: vegetarians and vegans appear to be at a higher risk for stroke.
Among the 48,188 people involved with the study, the researchers found 2,820 cases of coronary heart disease and 1,072 cases of total stroke.
Specifically, the data showed that fish eaters have a 13 percent lower risk for coronary heart disease than meat eaters; vegetarians and vegans had a 22 percent lower risk. While this is certainly excellent news for those non-meat eaters, the study also determined that the same group was at a 20 percent higher risk of stroke.
The researchers suggest that these results could, in part, be attributed to lower concentrations of low density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood. This measurement is typically the case in meat-free diets.
Of course, this discovery is new and the data is preliminary so more research is necessary to determine other related factors and how the information can be useful to medical and health professionals.