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Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Interesting Study On Vegetarian vs. Non-Vegetarian Diets

This little gem caught my attention today:

Vegetarianism is healthy, but not because of lack of animal protein

(Article summarizes a study found here)

In brief, the four healthiest nations in Europe consume (on average) copious amounts of animal products. Vegetarian diets have a proven effect on the reduction of risk of heart disease and stroke, most likely due to a much lower cholesterol intake, but vegetarians are just as likely to die of cancer as non-vegetarians - they even run a slightly higher risk of stomach cancer, which was a huge surprise for me - and experience a higher death rate from "other causes".

Although the author takes the "saturated fat is bad for you" view that has become the target of rabid attacks from some "experts" and experts on nutrition, his explanation seems very reasonable. Note that among the four nationalities E. Ginter lists as the healthiest three consume a lot of fish products - Icelandic, Swedes and Norwegians - while the Swiss are predominantly meat-and-cheese eaters.

Of course, the four nations listed in the study also happen to live in countries ranked as the most prosperous in the world in terms of citizens' well-being (Norway actually tops the list, which I would have to agree with from personal experience), which alone might have an effect on overall health regardless of diet.

Overall, he article provides one of the most balanced, honest approaches to the topic I have ever come across, without pro-vegetarian rants about how meat-eaters and milk-drinkers are all predestined to die prematurely, or any of the "paleo diet" anti-grain bullshit that is a popular pseudo-scientific point of debate these days. Rated very cool in my book.

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