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JAMA – Diet and mortality study

Summary of the JAMA Study on Diet and Mortality Released on Monday

The study compared the all-cause mortality patterns over 6 years among 73,308 Seventh-Day Adventists– roughly equally divided between meat-eaters & vegetarians.

Bottom Line: Vegetarians in the study experienced 12% fewer deaths over the period. Dietary choices appeared to play a big role in protecting the participants from heart disease, from which vegetarians were 19% less likely to die than meat-eaters. Men benefited more than women.

There also appeared to be fewer deaths in the vegetarian group from diabetes and kidney failure.

Men following a vegan diet fared particularly well, with the lowest death rates for ischaemic heart disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, & all-cause mortality.

The “vegetarian group” of 37,950 included a mixed group: 5,548 people were vegans, 21,177 were vegetarians who ate dairy and egg products, 7,194 were vegetarians who included fish in their diets and 4,031 were semi-vegetarian.

For the purposes of analysis, in many mortality categories all types of vegetarians were grouped together: the vegans, the lacto-ovo-vegetarians, the pesco-vegetarians, the occasional meat-eating vegetarians.

Caloric intake didn’t seem to matter. The different participant groups generally ate around the same amount of calories daily. Researchers found that the beneficial associations weren’t related to energy intake.

Researchers don’t know why a plant-based diet seems to have a protective effect, but one likely reason is the nutrient profile of vegetarian diets, which tend to be higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat. Vegetarians tend to be thinner, another factor known to have an effect on health outcomes the lead author says.

JAMA Internal MedicineSource reference:Orlich M, et al “Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2” JAMA Intern Med 2013; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473.

JAMA Internal MedicineSource reference:Baron R “Should we all be vegetarians?” JAMA Intern Med 2013; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6972.

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