Vegetarians in poorer physical and mental health, says report

A new study has found that vegetarians are in poorer health, have a higher need for health care, and have a poorer quality of life.

The study was carried out by researchers from the Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology at the Medical University in Graz, Austria. They took a sample from the Austrian Health Interview Survey, and results showed that a vegetarian diet was associated with poorer health – with higher incidences of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.

Analysis of the lifestyle factors and habits of the individuals in the study revealed that while vegetarians had the lowest BMI and consumed less alcohol, they “report poorer health, follow medical treatment more frequently, have worse preventive health-care practices, and have a lower quality of life”.

James Wilde, head of communications for Eblex, said: “We have always maintained that red meat is a key part of a healthy balanced diet. Choosing a meat-free diet means cutting out an important source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals which then have to be found elsewhere, but are perhaps not found in the same densities in other foods.

“Red meat is so often in the firing line that it is nice to see some positive research that echoes the plus points that come with eating red meat.”

While 31% of vegetarians suffered from allergies, only 17% of those with a diet rich in meat did. Similarly, 9.4% of vegetarians suffered from anxiety disorder or depression, with only 4.5% of the carnivores with a rich meat diet reporting the same illnesses.
The report showed there were more than twice as many cancer sufferers amongst vegetarians, while those who omit meat from their diet also had higher instances of asthma, diabetes, bronchitis and migraines.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Meat Advisory Panel, gave her response to the study: “Interpretations of what constitutes a ‘vegetarian diet’ vary widely, with some adherents eating a good balance of vegetable proteins, while others simply take out the meat without replacing the lost nutrients. This might explain the unexpected results of the study finding higher rates of some conditions among vegetarians.

“While there are many unknowns about the study and we cannot assume cause and effect, it is clear that simply removing meat from a diet does not automatically deliver health benefits.”

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