More and more people are opting for plant-based diets these days in an effort to become more environmentally-conscious and sustainable. However, it can also have a beneficial impact on your health, with recent research finding that vegetarians have a lower risk of developing heart disease than those who eat meat.

    Scientists behind the ‘Risks of ischaemic heart disease and stroke in meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians over 17 years of follow-up: results from the prospective EPIC-Oxford study’, which was published in the British Medical Journal earlier this week, looked at 43,188 people over 18.1 years with an average age of 45 to determine the link between their diet and health.

    The researchers asked them food questionnaires, as well as collected details about their body mass index, height, blood pressure, and food intake.

    During the study, there were 2,820 cases of ischemic heart disease (IHD). Adjusting for other factors, such as lifestyle and socio-demographics, the analysis determined the IHD rate for pescatarians and vegetarians was 13 per cent and 22 per cent lower than meat eaters respectively.

    Medical News Today quoted the study’s authors as saying: “This difference was equivalent to ten fewer cases of IHD … in vegetarians than in meat-eaters per 1,000 population per ten years.”

    This could be due to lower BMI and cholesterol levels, as well as fewer diabetes and hypertension cases among those who do not eat meat.

    While this suggests a meat-free diet is healthier, the study conversely found those who avoid eating animal products had a 20 per cent higher rate of suffering from a stroke.

    Indeed, there were 1,072 strokes during the term of the study, with three more cases of strokes among vegetarians per 1,000 people over ten years.

    The cause of this was not determined, though the researchers suggested it could have been the result of having a lower level of nutrients than meat-eaters, including essential amino acids and vitamins B-12 and D.

    This information could become increasingly valuable in the future, as more people are opting for a meat-free diet than ever before. Indeed, the Vegan Society revealed the number of vegans in Great Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2018, rising from 150,000 to 600,000 over the four years.

    At this rate, vegans and vegetarians together are on track to account for a quarter of the population of Britain by 2025. What’s more, as meat-free products become more widely available, this figure could be even greater.

    The organisation reported that the UK launched more vegan products in 2018 than any other nation, while orders of vegan meals rose by a huge 388 per cent from 2016 to 2018.

    Dubbed the biggest food trend of last year, demand for produce without any animal ingredients soared by 987 per cent in 2017. Therefore, it is imperative that consumers know the health repercussions of changing their diet, including this latest research into heart disease and strokes.

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