Heart Disease

No meat, no problems? Not quite…

Posted on 24 November 2019

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.”


  1. Tammy Y.N. Tong, Paul N. Appleby et al. Risks of ischaemic heart disease and stroke in meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians over 18 years of follow-up: Results from the prospective EPIC-Oxford study. The BMJ, 366, 2019. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.l4897
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