The risk of hospitalization or death from heart disease is almost a third lower in vegetarians than in people who eat meat and fish, according to a new study.
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Researchers from the University of Oxford in England say the health benefits of not eating meat likely stem from having lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
But heart experts caution that following a vegetarian diet is unlikely to be enough to prevent heart disease.
Heart disease is the largest cause of death in developed countries.
The study looked at 44,561 men and women living in England and Scotland who were enrolled during the 1990s in a separate Oxford study looking at links between cancer and nutrition.
Researchers used this database because of the unusually high number of vegetarians enlisted: 34% of the people.
All the people were asked about their health and lifestyles when they joined. This included questions about diet and exercise, as well as other factors affecting health such as smoking and drinking alcohol. Almost 20,000 participants also had their blood pressures recorded and gave blood samples for cholesterol testing.
The volunteers were tracked until 2009. During that time, researchers recorded 1,066 people with heart disease and 169 deaths from heart disease.
The researchers found that vegetarians had a 32% lower risk of developing heart disease than those who ate fish and meat. They did not differentiate between red and white meat, nor did they track how much meat was eaten.
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SOURCE: WebMD Health News