Vegetarians may live longer than meat-eaters, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The research involved over 70,000 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and showed that vegetarian diets are linked to reduced death rates with more favorable results for males than females. The potential association between diet and mortality is a critical area of research, the authors explained.

Vegetarian diets have been linked to a lower risk of several chronic diseases, such as:

A previous study involving over 60,000 Britons suggested that vegetarians have a lower risk of developing cancer than meat-eaters.

A total of 73,308 men and women Seventh-day Adventists were involved in the research, led by Michael J. Orlich, M.D., of Loma Linda University in California, which observed all-cause and cause-specific mortality.

Dietary patients were evaluated using a questionnaire that categorized the subjects into 5 groups:

  • non-vegetarian
  • semi-vegetarian
  • pesco-vegetarian – includes seafood
  • lacto-ovo-vegetarian – includes dairy and egg products
  • vegan – excludes all animal products

Vegetarian groups were inclined to be older, more highly educated, and more likely to be married. They also tended to drink less alcohol, smoke less, exercise more and be thinner.

Previous research conducted by Cancer Research UK showed that vegetarians put on less weight than meat-eaters, and vegans put on less weight than vegetarians.

The researchers pointed out:

“Some evidence suggests vegetarian dietary patterns may be associated with reduced mortality, but the relationship is not well established.”

During an average follow-up time of nearly six years, the experts identified 2,570 deaths among the volunteers.

Results showed that overall, the mortality rate was 6 deaths per 1,000 person years, the scientists said. “The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for all-cause mortality in all vegetarians combined vs. non-vegetarians was 0.88, or 12 percent lower.”

Additionally, the association seemed to be more favorable for men with notable reduction in heart disease mortality and IHD death in vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians.

Women, on the other hand, did not experience considerable reductions in these categories of mortality.

The experts concluded:

“These results demonstrate an overall association of vegetarian dietary patterns with lower mortality compared with the non-vegetarian dietary pattern. They also demonstrate some associations with lower mortality of the pesco-vegetarian, vegan and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets specifically compared with the non-vegetarian diet.”

Written by Sarah Glynn