Non-vegetarian food may lose its charm beyond your taste buds. Vegetarians have been found leading a healthier life as compared to meat-eaters. Incidence of diseases such as pancreatic cancer and respiratory problems are also less common among vegetarians than in those who consume meat regularly, according to a latest study.
However, there were no significant differences observed in mortality between people following different dietary patterns.
The study, conducted by the Oxford University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is one of the largest analysis piloted on the subject and involved two prospective studies that covered 60,310 persons living in the United Kingdom.
Findings of the study suggested significant differences in health risk, mainly related to chronic diseases, among regular meat-eaters, low-meat eaters, fish-eaters and vegetarians. For specific causes of death, compared with regular meat-eaters, low meat-eaters had around 30-45% lower mortality from pancreatic cancer, respiratory diseases, and all other causes of death. Fish-eaters had almost 20% lower mortality from malignant cancer and around 20% higher circulatory disease mortality. Vegetarians and vegans had 50% lower mortality from pancreatic cancer and cancers of the lymphatic or hematopoietic tissue.
The findings remained unchanged on further adjustment for body mass index, sex and smoking habits, the report said.
The study comprised 18,431 regular meat-eaters (who ate meat five times a week on an average), 13,039 low meat-eaters, 8516 fish-eaters (who ate fish but not meat), and 20,324 vegetarians (including 2228 vegans who did not eat anything sourced from animals).
According to Dr Anoop Misra, a leading endocrinologist and Chairman, Fortis C-Doc, similar studies are required in Indian population because there are stark contrasts in dietary patters of vegetarians and meat- eaters in the country. “The vegetarian food in India is not always the same as it is western countries. Here vegetarian food often contains high amount of carbohydrates and fat from oil etc. This is the reason that cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes are common even among vegetarians in India,” Dr Misra said.
Recently, the World Health Organisation’s cancer research agency – the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), also classified the consumption of red meat as “probably carcinogenic” to humans. “This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer,” the agency had said. While classification of red meat was based on limited evidence, in case of processed meat the agency found “sufficient evidence” suggesting that consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.
In a separate report on health risks due to climate pollutants, the WHO has recommended high and middle-income populations to increase their consumption of nutritious plant-based foods to reduce heart disease and some cancers. It said slow methane emissions is associated with some animal-sourced foods.