New Study Finds Vegetarians Live Longer — But Can You Afford To Skip The Meat?
If your mom used to bug you about eating your veggies, now you know why. According to a new study, vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters. And they are 19 percent less likely to die from heart disease.
The study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a Journal of the American Medical Association, tracked 73,308 members of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church for almost six years. The church promotes a vegetarian diet, although not all of its followers are vegetarians.
“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,” reports The Wall Street Journal. And it seemed fewer vegetarians suffered from diabetes and kidney failure. Cancer, however, stuck both the vegetarians and meat-eaters at the same rate.
Also interesting: being a vegetarian appeared to be more beneficial for men than for women.
The paper was written by researchers at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California. (Loma Linda University is a Seventh-Day Adventist institution specializing in health care.) “People are confronted with all sorts of nutritional information, but the bottom line is, ‘How will your diet pattern affect your risk of dying?”‘ lead author Michael Orlich, director of the preventive medicine residency program there, told WSJ of the study’s goals.
Although they have the results, researchers don’t know why a plant-based diet seems to have a protective effect. One reason may be the nutrient profile of vegetarian diets, which tend to be higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat, reports the newspaper. Also, vegetarians tend to be thinner, another factor known to have an effect on health, Dr. Orlich said.
While being a vegetarian has health benefits, many people believe it’s not affordable to maintain a strictly vegetarian diet.
LearnVest set out to discover the cost benefits of being a vegan or vegetarian. “To find out, we performed a hypothetical calculation of the total cost of a day’s meals for various eating habits: meat-eaters, your standard omnivorous bunch; pescetarians, who eat like vegetarians but allow themselves fish; vegetarians, who don’t eat meat; and vegans, who don’t eat any foods derived from animal products, including butter, milk, etc.,” explains LearnVest.
According to the findings, it is actually cheaper to be a pescetarian, vegan or vegetarian. Take breakfast for example. A meat eater’s breakfast of one egg, three strips of bacon, wheat toast and orange juice ran $2.45. For vegetarians, a breakfast of thawed frozen blueberries, yogurt, wheat toast and orange juice was $2.25. And a vegan meal, breakfast came in at $1.50 for thawed frozen blueberries, oatmeal and orange juice. In the study, all of the meals came out less than meat eaters.
“The most inexpensive foods are often plant-derived products, like carrots, oatmeal, and vegetable products. Plant proteins such as tofu or garbanzo beans, meanwhile, tend to be much cheaper than their equivalents in animal protein,” explains LearnVest. Meanwhile meats and processed foods were the most expensive items. And processed food are the least healthiest.
But according to Linda Whitmore in The Los Angeles Times, certain vegetarian items will cost you more. Sure fruits and vegetables won’t cost as much as beef, but what about Litelife Smart Ground, a fake ground beef. “Why should I pay $4.99 for 12 ounces of Litelife Smart Ground (yes, that’s fake ground beef — much to my carnivorous husband’s dismay — which shakes down to $6.65 per pound), when real ground beef is $2.99 to $3.99 per pound, depending on fat content?,” asks Whitmore, who has been a vegetarian for 15 years. According to Whitmore, the cost of being a vegetarian goes up if you are looking for items to replace meat with “veggie meat.”
Prices can go sky high when trying to eat vegetarian at a “regular” restaurant. “At my favorite chicken place (that would be a chicken place that offers falafel), my falafel platter is $8.29. My hubby’s half-chicken plate is $9.19. Huh? That’s chickpeas versus an actual, well, chick!,” she comments.
And while Whitmore doesn’t mention it, eating at a restaurant that specializes in vegan or vegetarian cuisine can cost a small fortune, compared to say eating at your local favorite. So the question is whether the extra cost is worth it.