Vegetarian and vegan diets are often thought to be better for overall health than meat consumption, but a new study suggests that may not be the case.
This observational study followed 48,000 adults in the U.K. over a period of about 18 years, to examine the associations of vegetarianism with risks of ischaemic heart disease and stroke.
This study found that vegetarians are 13% less likely to suffer from heart disease than their meat-consuming counterparts, however, they are 20% more likely to suffer a stroke.
After adjusting for sociodemographic and lifestyle factors, fish eaters and vegetarians had 13% (hazard ratio (HR) 0.87, 95% confidence interval (C.I) 0.77 to 0.99) and 22% (0.78, 0.70 to 0.87) lower rates of ischaemic heart disease than meat eaters, respectively.
However, interestingly, vegetarians had 20% higher rates of total stroke (HR 1.20, 95% C.I 1.02 to 1.40) than meat eaters, mostly due to a higher rate of haemorrhagic stroke.
According to the researchers, the lower risk of heart disease, even though it represents a lower percentage point than the increased risk of stroke, is actually the more significant finding because “stroke is a much rarer event than heart disease.”