73,308 men and women participated in the research and, as a whole, the vegetarians were 12 per cent less likely to have died during a six-year follow-up period than their meat-eating peers.
Led by Dr Michael Orlich, the researchers from Loma Linda University in California showed that vegetarian diets were linked with lower death rates, with men faring better than women. They advise for these findings to be considered carefully by those offering dietary guidance.
While a number of previous studies have come to similar conclusions, this latest one has additional weight due to the huge number of people involved over a long period.
The study noted that vegetarian groups tended to be older, educated to a higher level and more likely to be married, drink less alcohol, smoke less, exercise more and to be thinner – all factors that can also contribute to a longer life. However, the researchers found clear links between vegetarian diets and cardiovascular mortality, noncardiovascular noncancer mortality, renal mortality, and endocrine mortality.
Speaking to The Daily Mail, Liz O’Neill, Head of Communications at the Vegetarian Society said: “With higher intakes of fresh vegetables, pulses and other plant-foods, it seems obvious to many that balanced vegetarian diets are healthier than those reliant on meat, but we do not need to rely on gut instinct with so much hard evidence of that health advantage, both in the UK and abroad.
“This new American study is significant because the nature of the community studied (Seventh Day Adventists) means that even the meat eaters included were leading a relatively health-conscious lifestyle.
“The reported 12 per cent reduction in mortality was directly associated with being vegetarian, rather than having a healthy balanced diet.”