Vegetarians were 32 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die from heart disease than people who ate meat and fish, scientists at England
’s Oxford University
The researchers followed almost 45,000 adults, one-third of them vegetarians, for an average of 11 1/2 years and accounted for factors such as their age, whether they smoked, alcohol consumption, physical activity, education, and socio-economic background, according to the study published today in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Cardiovascular disease is the biggest cause of death in developed countries and accounted for an estimated 17.3 million deaths in 2008 worldwide, including 6.2 million deaths from strokes, according to the World Health Organization
The Oxford study reinforces previous research that has concluded a healthy diet can reduce heart disease by lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of diabetes. Another study
of more than 31,000 people who had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or diabetes, published in the journal Circulation in December, found that those who ate a diet that favored fish, vegetables, fruit, beans, and nuts over meats and eggs were 35 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Plant-based diets have long been advocated by doctors including Dean Ornish
, a California-based cardiologist, and Caldwell B. Esselstyn
, a retired surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic
, who have argued the benefits of vegetarian diets in their books. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton cited both doctors as influences after he switched to a plant-based diet. Clinton, who became known for consuming hamburgers while president, developed heart disease and underwent coronary bypass surgery in 2004.
“When these patients will fully commit to plant-based nutrition, they can not only halt but they can arrest and on occasion there will be significant evidence of disease reversal,” Esselstyn, a vegetarian for 29 years, said in a telephone interview.
“It’s getting to the point where it will be unconscionable for patients with cardiovascular disease not to be informed that this option exists,” he said.
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