Surprise Finding Hints at Healthiness of Vegetarians

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Vegetarians are 36 percent less likely to have metabolic syndrome than nonvegetarians, a new study suggests. And because metabolic syndrome can be a precursor to heart disease, diabetes and stroke, the findings indicate vegetarians may be at lower risk of developing these conditions.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as having at least three of five risk factors: high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high glucose levels, elevated triglycerides and an unhealthy waist circumference, according to the study.

Twenty-five percent of vegetarians in the study had metabolic syndrome , while 39 percent of nonvegetarians (meat-eaters) had metabolic syndrome, said researchers from Loma Linda University in California. The results remained the same even after researchers took into account age, gender, race, physical activity, calories consumed, smoking and alcohol intake.

"I was surprised by just how much the numbers contrast," study researcher Nico S. Rizzo said in a statement. "It indicates that lifestyle factors such as diet can be important in the prevention of metabolic syndrome."

The study included more than 700 adults who were part of Loma Linda University's Adventist Health Study 2, a long-term study of the lifestyle and health of almost 100,000 people in the United States and Canada.

Vegetarians had lower triglycerides, glucose levels, blood pressure, waist circumference and body mass index (a measure of height and weight) than nonvegetarians, the study said.

The study was published April 13 in the journal Diabetes Care.

Pass it on: Vegetarians are less likely to have metabolic syndrome a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and stroke than meat-eaters.

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Live Science Staff
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