Vegetarians are generally much healthier than meat eaters with a recent widely reported study getting its facts all wrong…

Vegetarians are generally much healthier than meat eaters with a recent widely reported study getting its facts all wrong…

The recent headline around the world read “Vegetarians Found to Have More Cancer, Allergies, and Mental Health Disorders”, with one website saying “Vegetarianism is a fad diet…”  Boy did they get this one wrong.

My 104 year old Granny Amy became a strict vegetarian in 1930 at the age of 23, and then lived another 81 years in great health without drugs or disease, looking after herself until she was 103.

This Austrian research was published in the journal PLoS One and compared self-reported health among 1,320 subjects who were divided into groups according to the type of diet they consumed.

The media loved this story however even the researchers themselves said there were many holes in the research, recognized some of these shortcomings, and outlined them in the discussion section of the paper (in the fine print of course).

There has been huge fallout of more thoughtful discussion and questioning among nutrition experts covering the extreme shortcomings of this study.

Paul Appleby, the senior statistician for the EPIC-Oxford study, and an expert on ‘study design’, said of this research that “…it was possible that vegetarians were being compared to subjects who were a few years younger…”

Here is the real clincher though… 

This was actually the second study on the health of vegetarians these researchers did, and their first study (which was bigger) came to completely different conclusions!

That original research looked at 10 TIMES MORE PEOPLE (15,474), and found better self-reported health among the vegetarians, as well as the omnivores who ate lots of fruits and vegetables.  

In this first and much larger study, these same researchers said that “PUBLIC HEALTH MEASURES ARE NEEDED TO REDUCE THE HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH “CARNIVOROUS” DIETS”.

So let’s take a look at the second study that made the sexy headlines and see shall we?

The problems with this media beat-up research study:

  • It’s a cross-sectional study; meaning it looked at habits and disease rates at one point in time only – not over a long time frame (which is very important)
  • The “vegetarians” in the study may have become “a vegetarian” just 10 minutes before they filled in the forms and were only “vegetarians” for one day (for example)
  • Many people who become vegetarian do so because they are unwell, so initial vegetarians or “new” vegetarians may be sick due to the meat-heavy diet they were on before they became vegetarians!
  • The subjects were simply asked what dietary group they belonged to, and they were not given any clear guidelines about this, so meat-eaters could be eating one small piece of meat a week (giving good health results) and the so-called “vegetarians” could be eating cola and chips every day
  • There was no actual dietary assessment at all so there was no way to know what these people in the research were genuinely eating!!!

As per all the research you see every day on my blog, people who eat plant-based wholefood diets, have many health advantages regarding chronic disease, with lower rates of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and most preventable lifestyle cancers.

Posted: Monday 7 April 2014