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Oct 17, 2012 by NATASHA LONGO
Could Adding Additional Years To Your Life Be As Simple As Going Vegetarian?

According to a study following 96,000 US and Canadian citizens, a vegetarian diet could mean living nine additional years than you might consuming meat based diets according the the findings.

First, let me premise this article by stating that I am not a vegetarian. I enjoy organic meat raised on sustainable farms and I do enjoy wild fish species throughout the year. If anything, I'm an eater who strives for health and both the vegan and vegetarian lifestyles did not assist in the advancement of my health in my trials which lasted approximately six years.

As a former vegan and vegetarian eater, I can assure you that these lifestyles are not suitable for 100% of the world's population and certainly not recommended for specific metabolic types, especially those with ancestral lines who depended on animal protein for many generations. We all have to find what works best for our own unique metabolisms and this is one of the most significant realizations I have made in both academic and personal research.

Unfortunately, this study itself does not examine what vegetarians may also be addressing in their own lifestyle habits that could ultimately affect their longer life expectancy. For example, is it possible that vegetarians also actively engage in habits which encourage better health? Perhaps they have a greater tendency to filter their water from toxins like fluoride, eat less processed foods, avoid drugs and vaccinations or even exercise more. We just don't know because these factors are not discussed in the study so other correlations may exist.

The study data, released by researchers at the Loma Linda University, USA, found that people following a vegetarian diet have a number of health benefits compared to those who consume meat -- and top of those benefits is a longer lifespan, with vegetarian men living an average of 9.5 and women an average of 6.1 years longer than meat munching counterparts.

The data -- presented at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo -- come from the Adventist Health Study-2 cohort, which is currently midway to completion. The study is following 96,000 US and Canadian citizens -- including thousands of Seventh-day Adventists -- to ascertain the potential health implications of vegetarian and meat based diets.

Seventh-day Adventists have long been known as advocates of a vegetarian diet.

Lead researcher, Gary Fraser revealed that the preliminary findings from the new study show that vegans are, on average, 13 kilograms lighter than meat eaters and five units lighter on the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale than meat-eaters.

Fraser also claimed that pesco-vegetarians and semi-vegetarians who limit animal products, but still eat meat once a week or so, have 'intermediate protection' against lifestyle diseases.

Study details

The study data suggests that vegetarian Adventist men tend to live to an average of 83.3 years, while vegetarian women live 85.7 years -- this is an average of 9.5 and 6.1 years respectively longer than other Californian citizens, Fraser explained.

Fraser revealed that the Adventist Health Study 2 found:

- Vegans are, on average, 30 pounds lighter than meat eaters.
- Vegans are also five units lighter on the BMI scale than meat-eaters.
- Vegetarians and vegans are also less insulin resistant than meat-eaters.
- Lean people are also more likely to exercise regularly, eat plants, and avoid cigarettes than overweight people, suggesting that numerous factors are boosting the overall health of these participants.
- Pesco-vegetarians and semi-vegetarians who limit animal products, but still eat meat once a week or so, have "intermediate protection" against lifestyle diseases.
- Obesity cuts an African-American's life span by 6.2%.

The study in essence found a correlation, but no definitive causation, meaning there may also be other factors involved attributed to this discrepancy between meat eaters and vegetarians. There are many meat eaters who live well into their 90s, eating cheese, plenty of butter and drinking red wine daily. The French are an excellent example. Thus, the conclusions from the study suggest further research should be encouraged to examine other possible relationships between lifestyle, dietary habits and physical activity which may also influence life span discrepancies.

Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.

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