Is a Vegetarian Diet Okay for Heart Health?

Just this week, the blog for our sister supplement, Glucocil, looked at the carnivore diet. That extreme crash diet only allows you to eat meat, eggs and some specific cheese products. The social media team concluded that the fringe diet is largely unhealthy and that no one should undertake it without first speaking to their doctor. But, what about the far more mainstream and widely accepted vegetarian lifestyle?

October is Vegetarian Month. Vegetarianism is known to have health benefits. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients, minerals and antioxidants that boost health. They are fiber dense and can help reduce inflammation. And, some vegetarians find that they lose weight while eating less meat. Unlike vegans, vegetarians still eat eggs, dairy and honey. And some eat fish. Many believe that a vegetarian diet is beneficial for heart health because of its inflammation-fighting abilities and other benefits.   

Studies have found that vegetarians have lower rates of obesity and ischemic heart disease (IHD). Research with over 48,000 people studied for more than 18 years backed up those finds. The vegetarians were less likely to have hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol. However, they were 20 percent more likely than meat-eaters to have a stroke. The researchers didn’t ask what — if any — medications or supplements people were taking. That could make a huge difference. They didn’t even ask about statin use. The researchers thought the stroke risk might have come from low levels of amino acids, iron, protein, calcium and vitamins B-12 and D — all of which can be lacking in vegetarian diets. However, there are ways to get more of those nutrients into your diet, even as a vegetarian.

Cardiologist Dr. Malcolm Finlay believed that the research focused too much on the stroke risk when the other benefits were so clear. “The vegetarians were very much healthier than meat-eaters.”

He believed that the study should encourage people to consider vegetarianism. “While this method can say the risk of stroke isn’t as low as one might expect it to be in vegetarians considering how much healthier they are in general compared to meat-eaters, their overall risk of a major life-changing cardiovascular event happening still appears much lower.”

Overall, the study found that the vegetarians had a 22 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than meat-eaters. People who only ate fish had a 13 percent lower risk than meat-eaters. Vegans got put in with the vegetarian group as there weren’t enough in the study to be their own group.

We’re not huge fans of cutting out entire food groups. That’s why we like eating styles like DASH and the Mediterranean diet — they don’t make things entirely off-limit. We’ve always said, “all things in moderation.” But, of course, we support people’s right to choose what is best for them. We suggest you speak to your doctor about your health needs and goals. If you are interested in trying vegetarianism, it might be right for you. It’s heart benefits are very attractive! You can try cutting down on meat at first to see how you feel. First, talk to your doctor about your levels of protein, iron and other nutrients you get from meat.
October 16, 2020

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