18-year study: Vegetarians and vegans have 20% higher risk of ischemic heart disease and attacks than meat-eaters

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Vegan salad bowl

Vegetarian and vegan diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, partly due to perceived health benefits as well as concerns about the environment and animal welfare.

  • In the UK, the representative National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2008-12 and 2016 Ipsos MORI survey estimated that there were about 1.7 million vegetarians and vegan living in the country.
  • Evidence shows that vegetarians may have different disease risks than non-vegetarians.

For ischemic heart disease, previous studies (but not some) have reported significant risk of death due to ischemic heart disease compared to non-vegetarians. In terms of its incidence, the only previous study (European Prospective Investigation for Cancer (EPIC) -Oxford) reported that vegetarians had a lower risk of ischemic heart disease than non-vegetarians, but the study was insufficient at the time of publication. Risks in other diet groups (fish-eating and vegans) were also examined separately.

For stroke, the previous report, which included EPIC-Oxford data, found no significant difference in risk of total stroke deaths between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. However, no previous study has examined the frequency of stroke or major stroke types associated with vegetarian diets.

Here, ischemic heart disease and people with different eating habits (ie meat eaters, fish eaters and vegetarians (including vegans)) are reported after 18 years with a separate assessment of ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes.