Claim: Vegetarian diets associated with lower risk of death

This is junk science because:

The reported results are statistically weak and/or non-significant. Study subjects were followed for less than six years. Mortality is a complex phenomenon that cannot be superficially studied with superficial statistical methods.

The media release and abstract are below.

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Vegetarian diets associated with lower risk of death

Vegetarian diets are associated with reduced death rates in a study of more than 70,000 Seventh-day Adventists with more favorable results for men than women, according to a report published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

The possible relationship between diet and mortality is an important area of study. Vegetarian diets have been associated with reductions in risk for several chronic diseases, including hypertension, metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus and ischemic heart disease (IHD), according to the study background.

Michael J. Orlich, M.D., of Loma Linda University in California, and colleagues examined all-cause and cause-specific mortality in a group of 73,308 men and women Seventh-day Adventists. Researchers assessed dietary patients using a questionnaire that categorized study participants into five groups: nonvegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian (includes seafood), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (includes dairy and egg products) and vegan (excludes all animal products).

The study notes that vegetarian groups tended to be older, more highly educated and more likely to be married, to drink less alcohol, to smoke less, to exercise more and to be thinner.

“Some evidence suggests vegetarian dietary patterns may be associated with reduced mortality, but the relationship is not well established,” the study notes.

There were 2,570 deaths among the study participants during a mean (average) follow-up time of almost six years. The overall mortality rate was six deaths per 1,000 person years. The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for all-cause mortality in all vegetarians combined vs. nonvegetarians was 0.88, or 12 percent lower, according to the study results. The association also appears to be better for men with significant reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality and IHD death in vegetarians vs. nonvegetarians. In women, there were no significant reductions in these categories of mortality, the results indicate.

“These results demonstrate an overall association of vegetarian dietary patterns with lower mortality compared with the nonvegetarian dietary pattern. They also demonstrate some associations with lower mortality of the pesco-vegetarian, vegan and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets specifically compared with the nonvegetarian diet,” the authors conclude.

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Click to enlarge abstract.

Pages from jamainternmed.2013

43 thoughts on “Claim: Vegetarian diets associated with lower risk of death”

  1. Loma Linda University waas founded by Seventh-day Adventists and many people who live in the region near it are members of that religion, so finding subjects for such a study might not be so difficult.
    Also, it seems JFS wrote a piece on this subject a few years ago. Perhaps our host may recall.

  2. So if you eat only vegetables, you will never die?

    last I checked, the risk of death was 100% for every man woman and child born. The only unknown in the equation is when.

  3. It’s not true. Our bodies require meat and plants. This is definitely a garbage “study”.

  4. That was pretty much my thought. More broadly, a very abstemious life might run three years longer and seem three decades longer.
    Would you like that steak wrapped in bacon? I would.

  5. Milloy, thanks for getting back to the basics with these. It’s refreshing to see you back in old form. AWG has gotten mentally exhausting.

  6. The study was of 7th Day Adventists. Other studies of active participants in Christian Churches also have an “association” with longer life. Of course, those who actively participate in churches tend to drink and smoke less and generally lead less stressful lives (on average), so the “church going” factor rather than diet factor might be the operative condition.

    I also note that 7th Day Adventists have a general policy of urging lifestyles that are considered “more healthy” on their membership. Vegetarian diet may or may not be a factor, as there are too many other variables in the selected population that makes it impossible to adequately control for other variables.

    Classic junk science.

  7. What’s most puzzling about this link to a church is why they want to stall going to heaven. Never quite understood the reasoning. So you are not allowed to kill yourself, but surely you’re not obliged to prolong your life neither? Should i believe in an afterlife filled with joy i’d be quite happy to die young of natural causes. Weirdness.

  8. Free range type – that is grass fed meat, healthy chicken, fresh fish is OK – just eat less of it as you get older – if you’re wise. If you overeat you’ll get sick – guaranteed.

  9. I thought it was “Cowards die many times before their deaths,
    The valiant never taste of death but once.”

  10. So, veering from healthy lifestyle to metaphysics — I attend a Methodist church. I think our answer would run along these lines: death is our return to God, though we will only understand that when it happens. That return will be joyful. In the meantime, life is God’s gift to us now. We should enjoy it and make the most of ourselves in it — pleasure, yes, and also achievement, generosity, shared love. As death is one of God’s gifts, so is temporal life.
    A very good cook producing a nicely-turned steak wrapped in bacon — now that’s making much of God’s gifts. Just stop short of gluttony.

  11. Mmmmmmmm . . . BACON !!!

    Elvis is reputed to have eaten a pound a day. Just before he died.

  12. Well, yes, but the gluttony…I’d say Elvis had focused on lesser gifts like food and lost greater gifts like love.

  13. Does this mean vegians have a 112% chance of living forever or only an 88% chance of dying?

  14. If they really wanted to test this theory they should test it on vegetarian motorcycle gang members. After all Seventh-day Adventists are far less likely to be involved in most risky human endeavors and more then likely this has more to do with them living to old age then vegetables do. Somehow I suspect even a Seventh-day Adventists who secretly enjoys McDonalds hamburgers will still live longer on average then a vegetarian biker.

  15. Your first problem will be finding a group of vegetarian motorcycle gang members — by which I assume you mean the “Hell’s Angels” class of bikers. Finding enough of them for a statistical sample will be tricky, as will catching them to do blood work.

  16. Oh, by the way, there is a corollary to what I said. In future times we humans will eat little meat – why, you ask? Well, reason one: would you KILL your own animal to eat it – not many of us would – or do you let a professional butcher do it? In other words , animals have feelings and emotions – if one bothers to notice – check out your dog or horse or cat or pig (pet or food?) and, reason two: I once had, courtesy of an Indian (sub-continent) vegetarian friend and his Indian/Australian entourage, the most delicious meal I have ever eaten, before or since, and not one piece of animal in it. Trouble is I am too damn lazy to have found out how they did it. What about you folk out there?

  17. All depends. If you’re hungry enough you’ll kill and eat your neighbor. I’d be unhappy to kill my livestock but i’d do (and did) it as humanely as possible. Nature is less humane. Getting eating alive whilst still running isn’t fun. Confusing bizarre notions of how things should be with how nature actually is, is bound to lead to problems. If i were an animal i’d prefer being a steak to be in a pasture here to a buffalo/gazelle you name it in africa.

  18. “In future times we humans will eat little meat – why, you ask? Well, reason one: would you KILL your own animal to eat it – not many of us would – or do you let a professional butcher do it? In other words , animals have feelings and emotions – if one bothers to notice – check out your dog or horse or cat or pig (pet or food?)”

    Get a smaller coffee mug, Biggs.

    BTW – Farmers have been killing their own animals for millennia. I’ve been hunting and fishing for over 50 years. You tellin’ me Bambi has feelings ?!?!

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight: I’m going to eat less meat in the future because you had a great vegetarian dish, which you don’t actually know what it was?

    Westerners have been traveling to India for centuries, sampling the food while there. Indian food has made little headway in the Western marketplace. I dare say Thai food is more popular. Vegetarian food is NOT going to displace meat in our diets.

    Unless Reichsleiter Michelle gets control of our food supply.

  19. I use to tell my children they were eating “Bambi”. Their response? “Can I have some more?”

    Some will die. But I suspect most will thrive. Just like they did in the past.

  20. The absolute best thing for the survivability of an animal species is for humans to like their taste.

  21. The dodo wasn’t particularly edible. It was extincted (is that a word?) by the introduction of other species to of Mauritius.

    Wikipedia:

    “The impact of these introduced animals, especially the pigs and macaques, on the Dodo population is currently considered more severe than that of hunting.”

    The passenger pigeon might be a better candidate. But habitat destruction, as well as excessive hunting, is known to have been involved with its extinction.

  22. A couple of further comments to this interesting thread (and thanks Steve for this). Petrossa, you make a good point – nature is less humane – but that should teach us superior beings to be more merciful. Tonia by the way is scientifically incorrect. Humans do not need animal flesh for perfect health and metabolism. Murray Rose of Australia won 3 gold medals in swimming in 1956. And what about Billie Jean-King the famous tennis player? No need to go on. No – you don’t need meat But I agree, good meat tastes nice. And another thing – whether I know the ingredients or not, people in the future certainly will repeat often that vegetarian meal that I had courtesy of India. And you need five times less the amount of land.

  23. Human beings are superior in their own minds only. I commented on that a while ago:
    The simple solution that we simply are procreating little primates that exist because we exist is too humiliating to them.

    We logically have an anthropocentric world view. We assume ourselves to be superior because we believe we are superior. A type of extreme ‘dubito, ergo cogito ergo sum’. Other animals doubt also, take decisions, deceive, tease, play, have feelings of love, hate, joy etc.

    Their philosophy of life we do not understand just as little as they understand ours.
    But by their standards they sure can feel superior over humans with good reason.
    http://petrossa.me/2010/04/

    Still they make a nice meal.

  24. Petrossa: I wish it was as simple as that. When we die, we will know – or we will not know – at least that much I know.

  25. Having died twice i can definitively state that no tunnel of light leads you to your loved ones. After you come around after reanimation it feels more like a movie that has been cut, a piece has been taken out, and sloppily put back together again. Your sense of continuity is gone. Weird sensation.

  26. The very few who have maintained that they truly know of these things (not just speculating on scriptures or the like) assert that the “energy” of consciousness continues, although physical consciousness dies with the physical. Energy created through thought, speech and other “physical” processes continue existence as energy. Heaven and hell are just references to the relative state of this energy. Mystical? Yeah.

  27. I guess what I’m also saying is that in this sense spirituality (or continued “existence”) is, strictly speaking, not incompatible with a scientific explanation. How it works, or at what point after “death”, no one can really know with any certainty. I sympathise with your position.

  28. I’ll be royally pissed off when i euthanase myself (legal in a couple of European nations and definitively in the plans) only to find out the horror continues with no way out. And even more so if there are people i can’t stand floating around there. That really would be hell.

  29. Nah. Don’t worry. I have it on the best authority. If it’s out there, it’s just good – what you want you get, what you don’t want you don’t get. Get it? It’s a learning process. Nothing to worry about.

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