While surfing the net, I came across an April 1, 2014 article CBS News Atlanta. The article intrigued me. It started off by praising the fact that vegetarians may be thinner and drink alcohol sparingly, but then cite that the vegetarian diet is tied to generally poorer health, poorer quality of life and a higher need for health care than their meat-eating counterparts. That is interesting, as we would all think that a vegetarian is much healthier than a carnivore.
CBS cited a new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria finds that the vegetarian diet, which is characterized by the consumption of less saturated fats and cholesterol and includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products carries an elevated risk of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.
According to this cross-sectional study from Austrian Health Interview Survey data, vegetarians are twice as likely to have allergies, a 50 percent increase in heart attacks and a 50 percent increase in incidences of cancer.
The most significant dietary habit difference between meat-eaters and vegetarians concerned their BMI and alcohol consumption--both being higher for those who consume meat [as a principal part of their diet.]
The CBS article further reported that, “Many past studies have instead put an emphasis on the health risks associated with red meat and carnivorous diets, but this study points in the other dietary direction. However, the researchers do caution that continuing studies will be needed to substantiate some of the rather broad dietary distinctions, associations presented in this current research.
The thing that this study does show is that overall, vegetarians were found to be in a poorer state of health compared to other dietary groups. Vegetarians reported higher levels of impairment from disorders, chronic diseases, and suffer significantly more often from anxiety/depression. This is significant.
According to a direct quote from the study researchers, “Our study has shown that Austrian adults who consume a vegetarian diet are less healthy (in terms of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), have a lower quality of life, and also require more medical treatment.” Is this study translatable to Americans? Since Americans a much more of an extremist group when it comes to food and eating, should a study such as this one be done on Americans?
The study went on to say that “chronic problems associated with vegetarians diets rich in fruits and vegetables were linked to more frequent visits to doctors, which the study authors suggest requires public health programs to reduce the health risk due to their nutritional factors.” This is rather strange as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that healthy diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases for all dietary groups. This study surely flies in the face of that recommendation.
The problem with this problem is that everyone has his or her own answer to this problem, but no real solution. I will add my five cents and say, the real answer lies somewhere in-between. Until we get the true answer, I still believe that eating a balanced diet that includes proteins, complex carbohydrates, fat and low in processed foods, sugar, salt and alcohol, all consumed in moderation is still the best bet in staying healthy.