What you eat has both immediate and long-term effects on your health. What foods produce the best health results have been a point of contention since as far back as we can remember. Generally, no one argues that a diet rich in vegetables is a bad diet, but a new study says that those completely abstaining from non-vegetarian foods (meat, dairy, etc.) —vegans and vegetarians—may be less healthy than their meat-eating counterparts.
The research from the Medical University of Graz and published in PLoS ONE says that although vegetarians are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices, they are also more likely to suffer from allergies, heart attacks, and cancer—a sharp difference from the picture of vegetarian health we most commonly see.
CBS Atlanta reports that not all the news was bad for vegetarians—they are more physically active, smoke less tobacco, and drink less alcohol. They also are more likely to have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index (BMI).
But the study says the benefits begin and end there.
Vegetarians in the Austrian Health Interview Survey were:
- Twice as likely to suffer from allergies, and
- Had a 50 percent greater risk of heart attacks and cancer.
- “Found to be in a poorer state of health compared to other dietary groups,” reporting higher incidence of chronic disease, impairment from disorders, and more anxiety and depression.
The study abstract concluded:
“Our study has shown that Austrian adults who consume a vegetarian diet are less healthy (in terms of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), have a lower quality of life, and also require more medical treatment,” wrote the study authors. “Therefore, a continued strong public health program for Austria is required in order to reduce the health risk due to nutritional factors.”
While my first question about the study was who was funding it, the researchers say they had no funding to report and that no “competing interests” existed.
In contrast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Numerous other studies have affirmed this stance, and the most recent research stands out as being abnormally contrary.