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Do vegetarians live longer? Or die faster?

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that vegetarians live longer than a-eaters. Researchers at Loma Linda University tracked 73,308 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church over almost six years. The study found that half of all deaths were due to heart disease, and that meat consumption was a risk factor for stroke. Vegetarians had lower overall mortality rates than non-vegetarians, even when adjusting for differences in smoking status and other factors.

The study found that vegetarians were 12% less likely to die during the four-year study period. This was the result of a reduced risk of heart disease (19% lower), diabetes (23% lower), and kidney failure (26% lower).

Calorie intake didn’t seem to matter. The different participant groups generally ate around the same amount of calories daily. Researchers found that the beneficial associations weren’t related to energy intake, but were more strongly associated with certain types of foods

Men may be particularly likely to benefit from adopting a vegetarian diet, according to a large study of 80,000 people in China. The study found that men who ate plant foods less often had a lower risk of dying throughout the study. So did women, though their protection was weaker than it was for men.

The argument that adopting a vegan lifestyle will extend one’s lifespan remains open because the vegans in these studies tend to be older and have a lower rate of obesity than people who eat less meat. Studies have found that people who eat more vegetables have lower rates of heart disease and other forms of illness.

Many people promote veganism by promising perfect health, weight loss, improved vitality, and disease-proof longevity. Yet vegans can and do develop serious illnesses. Going vegan can have healthy outcomes but vegans can also have chronic diseases, get sick, be fat, and die.

Though there is no consensus in scientific studies that vegans live longer than meat-eaters, studies do show that vegetarians have lower incidences of chronic diseases that are the leading causes of death. Compared to a vegetarian, the typical meat eater will die as much as ten years earlier. Diet is a major factor in cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

While a vegan diet can be good for your health, vegans do become sick.  There is sometimes a “cult of health” around veganism, but they argue that getting sick is not a personal failure, and it’s important to acknowledge that. Veganism doesn’t necessarily make us immune to illness and can help change the conversation around vegan health benefits so that people feel proud of who they are instead of ashamed because their lives don’t match up to an unrealistic ideal.

Veganism can have negative health consequences. There are many different types of vegans, including low-fat vegans and so-called “junk-food vegans. Vegans overstate the health benefits of veganism and promote the idea that eating vegan will make you live longer. Veganism is widely known as a diet, but it is also a philosophy, a movement, and a lifestyle centered on being more compassionate to animals.

The vegan lifestyle is about much more than food. It’s about caring for our planet and one another and finding a balance between the needs of our body, mind, spirit, and soul. Eating vegan food can help contain greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing the damage caused by climate change around the world.

Wealthier countries like the United States and European countries emit too many greenhouse gases from meat consumption, putting lives at risk during extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heat waves. Scientists around the world agree that encouraging the world’s richest 10% – many of whom live in the US and Europe – to switch to a plant-based diet is the best direct demand strategy to limit climate change.

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