Just in time for Vegetarian Awareness Month, a study in progress at Loma Linda University in California suggests if you want to live longer, being vegetarian is the way to go.
In the 1970s and 80s, studies conducted by the university were the first to show that a vegetarian diet led to a longer lifespan than a diet including meat. These first studies, started in 1958, tracked tens of thousands of Seventh-day Adventists, with a vegetarian diet encouraged by the church.
The research indicated that the types of foods commonly consumed in a vegetarian diet—fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes—helped reduce risk of cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes while promoting healthy body weight and brain health.
More recently, in 2002, the studies resumed, funded by the National Institutes of Health, with a new population of Adventists. According to Yahoo! Lifestyle, even though the studies are only halfway completed, they are already showing remarkable data:
- Vegetarian men live on average 83.3 years and the women 85.7 years—9.5 and 6.1 years, respectively, longer than other Californians.
- Vegans are, on average, 30 pounds lighter than meat eaters.
- Vegans are also five units lighter on the BMI scale than meat-eaters.
- Vegetarians and vegans are also less insulin resistant than meat-eaters.
Those who limit animal products, but still eat meat once a week or so, have “intermediate protection” against lifestyle diseases.
The studies also point out that because lean people are more likely to take regular exercise, eat plants and refrain from smoking than overweight people, there are other factors that are boosting the health of Adventist participants.
In fact, the Seventh-day Adventist belief system itself might also be contributing to their health. Adventists are encouraged to eat a vegetarian diet because of a belief in the unity of the mind, body and spirit. Many Adventists avoid alcohol, tobacco and even caffeine, and they are known for strong social networks. Furthermore, Adventists must observe a rest day each week.
Like the story of Peter Filak, who’s attempting to live to age 150, the dietary choices of this population are just one part of a complex equation. Food certainly makes an impact on a person’s overall health, but this study underscores the importance of a holistic approach to wellbeing.
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