Eating Meat May Be Even Riskier Than You Think

The Vegetarian Decision

Variety of meat.
Around ten million Americans consider themselves vegetarians, and now a new study shows their choice is a super-healthy one. Researchers discovered that vegetarians have a significantly lower risk of developing a condition that is linked to three major illnesses: diabetes, heart disease and stroke.    Researchers at Loma Linda University found that vegetarians (which they defined as those folks who eat meat of any kind less than once a month) experience a 36 percent lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome – which is a precursor to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke -- than meat eaters.   In order to measure metabolic syndrome, the researchers tested for five risk factors: high blood pressure, high HDL cholesterol, high glucose levels, elevated triglycerides, and an unhealthy waist circumference. The benefits of the vegetarian diet also held up when the scientists adjusted for factors such as age, smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity. The new study is published in the American Diabetes Association's journal Diabetes Care.   This isn’t the first study to show that being a vegetarian can help you live a longer and healthier life. A study conducted a few years ago at the German Cancer Research Center concluded that vegetarians reduced their risk of an early death by 50 percent for men and 30 percent for women. And a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry just this year found that meat eaters had significantly higher cardiovascular risk factors - conditions that can lead to heart attacks and strokes – than non-meat eaters.   One reason may be that meat contains fourteen times the amount of pesticides as plant foods since pesticides get concentrated as they move up through the food chain. Plus, they're more easily stored in fatty tissues.   For those who are considering at least limiting their consumption of meat, you might also want to think about the environmental angle. More than half of the water used in the U.S. is used to grow feed for livestock. In fact, it takes one hundred times more water to produce meat than to produce wheat.    You might not like the idea of vegetarianism. But in considering its benefits, you’ve got a lot of food for thought.    Robin Westen is ThirdAge’s medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.  

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