T Nation

Vegetarians Live Longer?


#1

I just heard a statistic, i don't have a source, but its from this movie that my parents were watching: "Vegetarians live 8 years longer on average, have less health problems.. etc"

Thoughts?

-M


#2

I'm vegetarian...and I'd have to say that's probably incorrect. Most vegetarians fuck up their diet so much that it leads to other health problems.


#3

You're a vegetarian? I didn't know that. No wonder people give you shit.


#4

Last I heard, the ONLY diet strategy to extend life was a drastic reduction in calories. This is done to the point of slowing the metabolism and possibly subjecting the body to a lot fewer free radicals. ** prays the "bad potatoe" avatar does not get a freind **


#5

In the wild, vegetarians get eaten by the carnivores/omnivores pretty quickly. I wouldn't say they live longer.


#6

Diet is very important in longevity. More because a bad diet shortens your life then the good extending it.

There are a whole host of health benefits from eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. I don't think we have found every little micronutrient available, and food sources seem to be higher quality then vitamin pills.

That said, I am convinced Berardi said it right, eat like a vegetarian, but add in a lot of meat.

I can support vegetarianism on a philosophical level, but not a dietary level.


#7

It might not be due to their diets though.

Vegetarians on average might be less likely to take risks, less likely to smoke/drink etc.

As one of my old lecturers would say: Correlation does not imply causation.

And I agree with the above post, i know so many vego's who eat very poorly, it can't be doing them any favours.


#8

I remember reading another statistics which claimed that those who eat meat only occacionally live longer than both vegetarians and regular meat-eaters. There is some logic to it - meat contains essential nutritients, however it's rather "heavy" food, so infrequent consumption is optimum (for longevity, not lots of muscle)


#9

My daughter is a veggie and I find it a continuing struggle to find ingredients that have enough protein. Personally, I happily eat vegetarian food but only as additional options to dead things.


#10

Most vegetarians that I know seem to take better care of there diets than the average American. That sure as hell doesn't say much considering what most americans pass off as food. If you eat a lot of vergetables and get plenty of protein from meat, I think you get the best of both worlds.


#11

You also have to take into consideration what they are comparing vegetarians to.

I'm sure none of their studies are done with comparisons to people who are studying their macronutrient intake.

If you compare vegetarians to the average fast-food eating, obese omnivore, then I can see why the vegetarians would live longer.

I think there are far too many factors to take into consideration than if one eats meat or not.


#12

Probably true. So quite possibly, vegetarians live longer than non-vegetarians, but they'd live even longer if they ate meat.


#13

A vegetarian guidebook published in Great Britain made the following claim:

You and your children don't need to eat meat to stay healthy. In fact, vegetarians claim they are among the healthiest people around, and they can expect to live nine years longer than meat eaters (this is often because heart and circulatory diseases are rarer). These days almost half the population in Britain is trying to avoid meat, according to a survey by the Food Research Association in January 1990. (77)

In commenting on this claim of extended lifespan, author Craig Fitzroy astutely points out that:

The ' nine-year advantage ' is an oft-repeated but invariably unsourced piece of anecdotal evidence for vegetarianism. But anyone who believes that by snubbing mum's Sunday roast they will be adding a decade to their years on the planet is almost certainly indulging in a bit of wishful thinking. (78)

And that is what most of the claims for increased longevity in vegetarians are: anecdotal. There is no proof that a healthy vegetarian diet when compared to a healthy omnivorous diet will result in a longer life. Additionally, people who choose a vegetarian lifestyle typically also choose not to smoke, to exercise, in short, to live a healthier lifestyle. These things also factor into one's longevity.

In the scientific literature, there are surprisingly few studies done on vegetarian longevity. Russell Smith, PhD, in his massive review study on heart disease, showed that as animal product consumption increased among some study groups, death rates actually decreased! (79) Such results were not obtained among vegetarian subjects. For example, in a study published by Burr and Sweetnam in 1982, analysis of mortality data revealed that, although vegetarians had a slightly (.11%) lower rate of heart disease than non-vegetarians, the all-cause death rate was much higher for vegetarians (80).

Despite claims that studies have shown that meat consumption increased the risk for heart disease and shortened lives, the authors of those studies actually found the opposite. For example, in a 1984 analysis of a 1978 study of vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists, HA Kahn concluded,

Although our results add some substantial facts to the diet-disease question, we recognize how remote they are from establishing, for example, that men who frequently eat meat or women who rarely eat salad are thereby shortening their lives. (81)

A similar conclusion was reached by D.A. Snowden (82). Despite these startling admissions, the studies nevertheless concluded the exact opposite and urged people to reduce animal foods from their diets.

Further, both of these studies threw out certain dietary data that clearly showed no connection between eggs, cheese, whole milk, and fat attached to meat (all high fat and cholesterol foods) and heart disease. Dr. Smith commented,

In effect the Kahn [and Snowden] study is yet another example of negative results which are massaged and misinterpreted to support the politically correct assertions that vegetarians live longer lives. (83)

It is usually claimed that meat-eating peoples have a short life span, but the Aborigines of Australia, who traditionally eat a diet rich in animal products, are known for their longevity (at least before colonization by Europeans). Within Aboriginal society, there is a special caste of the elderly (84). Obviously, if no old people existed, no such group would have existed. In his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price has numerous photographs of elderly native peoples from around the world. Explorers such as Vilhjalmur Stefansson reported great longevity among the Innuit (again, before colonization). [85]

Similarly, the Russians of the Caucasus mountains live to great ages on a diet of fatty pork and whole raw milk products. The Hunzas, also known for their robust health and longevity, eat substantial portions of goat's milk which has a higher saturated fat content than cow's milk (86). In contrast, the largely vegetarian Hindus of southern India have the shortest life-spans in the world, partly because of a lack of food, but also because of a distinct lack of animal protein in their diets (87). H. Leon Abrams' comments are instructive here:

Vegetarians often maintain that a diet of meat and animal fat leads to a pre-mature death. Anthropological data from primitive societies do not support such contentions. (88)

With regards to endurance and energy levels, Dr Price traveled around the world in the 1920s and 1930s, investigating native diets. Without exception, he found a strong correlation between diets rich in animal fats, robust health and athletic ability. Special foods for Swiss athletes, for example, included bowls of fresh, raw cream. In Africa, Dr Price discovered that groups whose diets were rich in fatty meats and fish, and organ meats like liver, consistently carried off the prizes in athletic contests, and that meat-eating tribes always dominated tribes whose diets were largely vegetarian. (89)

It is popular in sports nutrition to recommend "carb loading" for athletes to increase their endurance levels. But recent studies done in New York and South Africa show that the opposite is true: athletes who "carb loaded" had significantly less endurance than those who "fat loaded" before athletic events (90).

  1. B McConville. The Parents' Green Guide. (London: Pandora), 1990.

  2. C Fitzroy. The Great Fallacies of Vegetarianism. Accessed on December 27, 2001.

  3. R Smith and E Pinckney. Diet, Blood Cholesterol, and Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review of the Literature--vol. 2. (Vector Enterprises; CA)., 1991. A shortened adaptation of Smith's section on vegetarianism and longevity was published in Jnl of PPNF, 1998, 22:4: 27-29. See also S Fallon and M Enig. Wise Choices, Healthy Bodies. Wise Traditions, 2000, Winter, 15-21.

  4. ML Burr and PM Sweetnam. Vegetarianism, dietary fiber, and mortality. Amer J Clin Nutr, 1982, 36:873.

  5. HA Kahn and others. Association between reported diet and all-cause mortality. Amer J Epidem, 1984, 119:775.

  6. DA Snowden and others. Meat consumption and fatal ischemic heart disease. Prev Med, 1984, 13:490.

  7. R Smith and E Pinckney. Diet, Blood Cholesterol, and Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review of the Literature--vol. 2.

  8. WA Price. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 163-187.

  9. V. Stefansson. The Fat of the Land, (Macmillan; NY), 1956.

  10. (a) G.Z. Pitskhelauri. The Long Living of Soviet Georgia. (Human Sciences Press; NY), 1982; (b) Thomas Moore. Lifespan: What Really Affects Human Longevity (Simon & Schuster; NY), 1990.

  11. HL Abrams. The relevance of paleolithic diet in determining contemporary nutritional needs. J Appl Nutr, 1979, 31:1,2:43-59.

  12. HL Abrams. Vegetarianism: An anthropological/nutritional evaluation. J Appl Nutr, 1980, 32:2:53-87.

  13. WA Price. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 23-44, 129-163.

  14. J Raloff. High Fat Diets Help Athletes Perform. Science News, 1996, 149:18:287.


#14

Nice post! Are there any pro-vegetarians that would counter-argue?

-M


#15

You can do what needs to be done being a vegetarian....you just need T-Nation by your side....
See you at my first competition.
Sincerely,
Your in-house vegetarian.


#16

Eight more decrepit years as an old fart, or a life filled with juicy steak. Hmm, tough call.

Light up the grill.


#17

Couldn't have said it better myself.


#18

The Proteinpowda stares at his pallet sitting on the table. His mouth starts to water and his hands start to quiver. He reaches for his fork and as he claps it in between his fingers they begin to perspire. The fork cascades down and lands with a gentle thud on the carpet. As his eyes grow and grow in a similar fashion to Pinnochio's nose as he tells a lie the Powda pounces from his neutral position and uses both his hands to shove the delectable, insatiable meal into his mouth as he begins to murmur....

MMM Tofu!

P.S. I don't eat tofu or or soy (a few times a year I'll eat a veggie burger at most)


#19

Meat is dead

Bread is dead

But yogurt is ALIVE.


#20

This was stated in a movie.