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Vegans have lower prevalence of hypertension

Researchers from Oxford University studied a large cohort of British men and women in the context of diet, lifestyle, and disease risk. They found that hypertension (both systolic and diastolic) is significantly less prevalent among vegan men and women (5.8% and 7.7%, respectively) as compared to omnivorous men and women (15.0% and 12.1%, respectively). The researchers suspect that this is related to the vegan participants’ lower average Body Mass Index.
Public Health Nutrition. 2002 Oct 1;5(5):DOI 10.1079/PHN2002332. (Appleby et al.)

Increasing Vegetable Intake May Decrease Risk of Breast Cancer

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine compared the diets of 240 South Asian women who had breast cancer with age-matched South Asian women who did not. They found that there was a slight reduction in the risk of breast cancer among women who identified as lifelong vegetarians compared with those who identified as lifelong meat-eaters. The researchers believe that reduction in the risk of breast cancer among lifelong vegetarians is most likely related to increased consumption of vegetables and pulses (legumes).
International Journal of Cancer. 2002 May 10. 99, 238-244. (dos Santos Silva et al.)

Genital Defect in Sons of Vegetarians

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood in England included mothers who gave birth to 7928 boys, 51 of whom had a genital defect called hypospadias, in which the opening of the urethra is not at the tip at the penis as it should be. After controlling for other factors such as smoking, alcohol use and reproductive history, only three factors – vegetarian mothers, iron supplementation with omnivore mothers, and influenza during the first trimester – were associated with this defect. The authors hypothesize that increased exposure to phytoestrogens may affect development of the male reproductive system.
BJU International. January 2000; 85(1):107-113.[North and Golding]

Vegetarian Diet and Adequate Calcium

In the American diet, dairy foods are the primary source of calcium.  Plant foods can also be a good source of dietary calcium, especially those such as as broccoli, kale, and bok choy; other plants high in calcium such as spinach, rhubarb, and beans may have lower bio-availability of calcium due to compounds called oxylates and phytates.  Because the calcium content of common plant sources is rather low, it is difficult for most Americans to meet their requirements exclusively from these foods.  Individuals who choose not to eat dairy products should therefore try to include calcium fortified foods or supplements in their diet in order to meet recommendations, and they should limit salt, protein and caffeine, all of which decrease calcium retention.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. September 1999;70(3 suppl):543S–8S [Weaver CM et al.]

Vegetarian diet pattern related to decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, and death

Research from Loma Linda University on a large cohort of Seventh-Day Adventists suggests that there is a significantly decreased risk of colon and prostate cancers, ischemic heart disease, and all-cause mortality among vegetarians when compared with omnivores. Vegetarians were also found to have lower risks of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis. The author notes, however, that these effects cannot be ascribed only to the absence of meat.  For this reason, further research into individual food groups and nutrients – especially with regard to specific cancers – is needed.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999 Sep 1;70(suppl):532S-8S. (Fraser)