The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

The latest edition of Vegetarian Journal includes our Scientific Update column written by Reed Mangels, PhD, RD. The first review looks at dementia and diet. “An estimated 14% of Americans age 71 or older have dementia, a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. There is currently no effective treatment for dementia, and so some researchers are focusing on slowing or preventing the reduced mental function that appears in some people in middle age and increases their risk of dementia. Diet is a promising area of research.”

The next Scientific Update examines heart disease and stroke in vegetarians. “A recently published study from the UK examined more than 48,000 vegans, vegetarians, fish eaters, and meat eaters, and their risk of heart disease and stroke over an 18-year period. Because of the relatively small number of vegans, they were combined with lacto vegetarians and lacto-ovo vegetarians into a group called “vegetarians.” The vegetarians (including vegans) had a 22% lower risk of heart disease than the meat eaters; fish eaters had a 13% lower risk than the meat eaters. According to the study’s authors, these results suggest that if 1,000 meat eaters were compared to 1,000 vegetarians, over a 10-year period, there would be 10 fewer cases of heart disease in the vegetarians.

In contrast, vegetarians (including vegans) had a higher risk of a kind of stroke called hemorrhagic stroke and of stroke overall than did meat eaters. This suggests that if 1,000 meat eaters were compared to 1,000 vegetarians, over a 10-year period, there would be three more cases of stroke in vegetarians than in meat eaters. There are two main types of stroke—ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are more common (87% of all strokes) and are due to a blood clot blocking blood flow to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a weakened blood vessel rupturing and bleeding into the brain.

When vegans were examined separately, they had a lower risk of heart disease than meat eaters but a higher risk for stroke, although neither estimate was statistically significant, possibly due to the small number of cases in vegans.

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