WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Vegetarians, take heart: A new British study finds you may have about a third less risk of hospitalization or death from cardiovascular disease than meat-eaters do.
"Most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure, and shows the important role of diet in the prevention of heart disease," lead researcher Dr. Francesca Crowe, of the cancer epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford, said in a university news release.
The study included nearly 45,000 people from England and Scotland, about a third of who were vegetarians. According to the research team, having such a large proportion of vegetarians in this type of study is rare and enabled a more precise comparison of heart disease risk between vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
The participants were recruited to the study throughout the 1990s, and all of them provided information about their health and lifestyle when they joined. About 20,000 of the volunteers also had their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked, and follow-up continued until 2009.
During the follow-up period, heart disease was identified in more than 1,200 people, including 169 deaths from heart disease.
Crowe's team found that the vegetarians had a 32 percent lower chance of being hospitalized or dying from heart disease versus people who ate meat or fish. The vegetarians typically had lower blood pressures and cholesterol levels than non-vegetarians.
Vegetarians also tended to be slimmer and there were fewer cases of diabetes, but these two factors were not found to significantly affect the study results, the researchers reported in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Still, the study could only show an association between a meat-free diet and better heart health, not a cause-and-effect link. And one U.S. expert said the research did have some limi
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