Do Vegans and Vegetarians Really Live Longer, Healthier Lives?

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Do Vegans and Vegetarians Really Live Longer, Healthier Lives?

An article in the International Journal of Epidemiology published the results of the Adventist Health Study 2 - a huge piece of researdh that began in 1960 and has continued since then.  In the study 96,000 Seventh Day Adventists were asked to complete and in-depth 50 page questionnaire (see the questionnaire here) which looked at a vast range of health markers and indications.  Why were Seventh Day Adventists used for this study? 

The Adventist church, of 24 million adherents world-wide, promotes a healthy lifestyle. Church members are expected to be non- smokers and non-alcohol users, and are encouraged to eat a vegetarian diet. Many also avoid caffeine-containing beverages. However, adherence to these recommendations is quite variable.

So far - all the indications are that a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet is one of the main the keys to living a long and healthy life - which is great news as all the trends indicate that people who follow a standard Westernised diet and lifestyle are much more likely to develop chronic, devastating health conditions at increasingly younger ages.  These health conditions include heart and cardio-vascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes and the complications thereof, most cancers, neurological disorders including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, obesity and a wide range of conditions which have inflammation as their underlying causative factor. 

How did the study come about?

The Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2) began in 2002 with the goal of investigating the role of selected foods to change the risk of cancer. AHS-2 is designed to provide more precise and comprehensive results than previous pioneering research among Seventh-day Adventists1–6, a unique health oriented population with diverse dietary habits.

The Adventist church, of 24 million adherents world-wide, promotes a healthy lifestyle. Church members are expected to be non- smokers and non-alcohol users, and are encouraged to eat a vegetarian diet. Many also avoid caffeine-containing beverages. However, adherence to these recommendations is quite variable.

Adventists in North America are almost entirely a non-smoking population. The vast majority are non-drinkers and the small number who consume alcohol do so infrequently. But they have a wide diversity in dietary practices. Two previous longitudinal studies in California showed a small percentage are total vegetarians, many follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet or eat meat less than once per week (semi-vegetarian) and about half have omnivorous diets similar to the general population.7

These studies in California, the Adventist Mortality Study (AMS)8,9, from 1960–66 and the first Adventist Health Study (AHS-1)10–13 from 1974–88 indicated that Adventists had lower risks for most cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Females lived 4.4 years and males 7.3 years longer when compared with the general California population7,14,. These studies also showed the advantage of a vegetarian diet among Adventists, found strong evidence that meat increased risk of colon cancer13 and coronary heart disease11,15,, and that nut consumption reduced risk of coronary heart disease11,12,. Other significant associations between cancers and other foods have also been reported 7,16–18.

 

What does it cover?

The broad scope of AHS-2 is to investigate the role of various foods and nutrients, other lifestyle factors and metabolic risk indicators that may be involved in cancer causation. 

 

Below are links to summaries of relevant findings so far from Adventist Health Study-2. 

Lifestyle, Diet and Disease

Levels of cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, and the metabolic syndrome all had the same trend – the closer you are to being a vegetarian, the lower the health risk in these areas. Read more >

 

Lifestyle and Wrist Fractures

Women who reported fractures were more likely to be older, to have a history of fractures, to report low or no vigorous physical activity, and to have never used hormones. Read more >

 

 

Minority Populations: Black/African Americans

AHS-2 has provided a health overview of its Black/African American study members, as well as its data on scientific research within the Black/African American community. Read more >

 

 

Adventist Religion & Health Study (Substudy of AHS-2)

ARHS aims to understand what specific aspects of religion account for better or worse health in a nationwide cohort of Adventists. Read more >

 

 

Vegetarians and Vitamin D

A vegetarian diet was not associated with lower levels of vitamin D. Other factors, such as amount and intensity of sun exposure had a greater influence on vitamin D levels in blood than diet. Read more >

 

 

References

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