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Vegetarian Diets May Lower Blood Pressure

Researchers in Japan and the United States reviewed data from over 21,000 people to investigate the association between vegetarian diets and blood pressure. After analyzing 32 observational studies and 7 controlled trials published between 1900 and 2013, the scientists found that eating a vegetarian diet is associated with a significant reduction in both systolic (4.8-6.9 mm Hg decrease) and diastolic (2.2-4.7 mm Hg decrease) blood pressure compared with diets that include meat.
JAMA Internal Medicine. 2014 April; 174(4):577-587 (Yokoyama Y et al.)

Plant-based Diet Declared the Healthiest

Because traditional nutrient analyses can’t account for the complex interactions between food and nutrients, scientists have begun using more holistic dietary pattern analyses to assess overall diet quality. In this study, researchers analyzed the self-reported eating patterns of 1475 adults in Belgium against both the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2010, a measure of how well a diet conforms to the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines) and the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS, a measure of how well a diet conforms to the Mediterranean diet). In both measurements, participants with vegan diets (diets that exclude all animal products, including meat, fish, dairy, and eggs) came out with the highest score. Additionally, the vegan diets were found to have the best fat profile, the most fiber, the lowest calories, the most fruits and vegetables, and the lowest sodium. These findings are significant, because researchers point out that “high scores in both indexing systems (HEI-2010 and MDS) are related with positive health outcomes.”
Nutrients. March 2014;6(3):1318-1332.

Nuts Associated with Lower Mortality Rate

Researchers examined the eating patterns of more than 76,000 women and more than 42,000 men over 24 to 30 years to assess the health effects of eating nuts. They discovered that eating nuts is associated with a reduced risk of mortality overall and specifically from cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. As nut consumption increased (from none at all, to weekly, to daily), the incidences of mortality also decreased. Researchers noted that all types of nuts appear to have the same health benefit and did not see a difference between individual types, including peanuts and tree nuts.

The New England Journal of Medicine. 2013 November 21; 369:2001-2011 (Bao, et al.)

Nutrient Profiles of Vegans Point to Lowest BMI

When researchers at Loma Linda University conducted a cross-sectional study of 71,715 subjects from the Adventist Health Study 2 to compare nutrient intakes between dietary patterns characterized by consumption or exclusion of meat and dairy products, they found a clear connection between diet type and weight among five groups: meat-eaters, semi-vegetarians, pescatarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and vegans.  Vegans were found to have the lowest average BMI, while meat-eaters showed the highest, along with the highest intake of heart-disease related fatty acids. Vegans also had the lowest occurrence of obesity (9%) compared to 33.3% of meat-eaters. The average age of study participants was 59.

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. August 2013. (Rizzo, Jaceldo-Sigl, Sabate, Fraser.)


Fruit Consumption May Lower Risk of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Researchers in Sweden followed the fruit and vegetable consumption of more than 80,000 men and women over a 13-year period to investigate the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and occurrence of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The aorta is the body’s largest artery. A bulge in the aorta’s wall in the abdomen is an abdominal aortic aneurysm. A ruptured aneurysm causes internal bleeding and can cause death. The research team found that people who ate more than two servings of fruit per day had a 25% lower risk of developing AAA and a 43% lower risk of rupture than those who ate less than 7/10 of a serving of fruit per day. They found no relationship between vegetable consumption and risk of AAA.

Circulation. 2013; 128(8):795-802. (Stackelberg, et al.)

Study Shows Vegetarian Diet Leads to Longer Life

A study conducted as part of the Adventist Health Study 2 found that adhering to a vegetarian diet led to lower all-cause mortality. The study conducted by scientists from Loma Linda University in California analyzed information collected from a group of Seventh Day Adventists taking part in a cohort study. They found that not only is a vegetarian diet associated with lower all cause mortality but also lower cardiovascular, renal, and endocrine mortality.
JAMA intern Med. 2013; 173(13):1230-1238. (Orlich et al.)

Vegetarian Diet and Heart Health

A group of scientists in England conducted a study that looked at 44,000 people enrolled in a study in England and Scotland. They measured factors that are related to heart health and ischemic heart disease. After comparing vegetarians to non-vegetarians they found that vegetarians were 32% less likely to develop ischemic heart disease.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 97:597-603. (Crowe et al.)

Med Diet Healthy and Affordable

A study published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition helps debunk the myth that the Mediterranean Diet is cost prohibitive for families on tight budgets. The Rhode Island Community Food Bank sponsored a six-week cooking program focused on plant-based cooking with olive oil. Study authors followed the 63 participants for six months to determine whether their grocery shopping and cooking habits changed as a result of the program. At the end of the study participants had decreased their total food expenses, purchases of meat, and consumption of “junk” food. Results also suggest that eating 2 to 3 vegetarian meals per week increases fruit and vegetable consumption and helps with weight control.
Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. March 2013; 8(1). [Epub 2013 March 14] [Flynn, Reinert & Schiff]

Vegetarian Diets and the Incidence of Cancer

Using data from the Adventist Health Study-2 researchers from Loma Linda University in California looked at the relationship between vegetarian dietary patterns and the incidence of cancer in a low risk population. In this prospective study, vegetarian diets appeared to confer protection against cancer. A vegan diet appears to have the overall lowest risk of cancer and female-specific cancers; a lacto-ovo-vegetarian pattern provided greatest protection from gastrointestinal cancers.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013; 22:286-294. (Tantamago-Bartley et al.)

Semi-Vegetarians Most Likely to Exhibit Eating Disordered Behavior

Researchers from Towson University and the University of Pennsylvania conducted two studies on a total of 486 participants to determine whether diet type (vegan, lacto ovo vegetarian, semi-vegetarian including pescatarians and red meat vegetarians, and omnivorous) was associated with eating disordered behavior including emotional  eating, restrained eating, and desire for thinness. They found that the semi-vegetarians were relatively the most disordered in terms of their food-related behaviors and attitudes. Vegans had the healthiest attitudes toward food, closely followed by vegetarians – a somewhat surprising result, given the inherent restrictions of the diets. The authors call for further research on the relationship between semi-vegetarianism and disordered eating.
Appetite. 2012 Jun;58:982-90. (Timko et al.)

Traditional Japanese Breakfast Foods Improve Glucose Tolerance

Researchers studied the effect of traditional Japanese breakfast foods on insulin sensitivity in a small sample of individuals with impaired glucose tolerance.  The group which ate foods such as natto (fermented soybeans) and viscous vegetables (such as Japanese yams and okra) for 2 weeks demonstrated improved insulin sensitivity, serum lipids, and oxidative stress compared to the control group.
British Journal of Nutrition. 2012 Apr;107(8):1184-1191. (Taniguchi-Fukatsu et al.)

B-12 Status and Vegans

Individuals who choose to follow a vegan diet are at increased risk for being deficient in vitamin B-12, which occurs in meaningful bio-available amounts only in animal foods.  This type of vitamin deficiency is very serious and can cause many irreversible health problems, yet vegans often don’t take B-12 supplements because they consider them “un-natural.” Polish scientists followed 20 healthy adult volunteers for five years after they switched from an omnivorous diet to a strict vegan diet. Ten consumed only natural products, while the other ten consumed foods fortified with B-12. Not surprisingly, B-12 serum levels were down in the natural group, but not in the fortified group.   
Acta Scientiarum Polonorum, Technologia Alimentaria April 2, 2012; 11(2):209-213. [Lisowska A et al.]