Study Finds Vegetarians and Vegans May Be at a Higher Risk of Stroke

But they may still have a lower risk of heart disease

A completely meat-free diet may not actually be as healthy as we thought
Alexandr Podvalny/Unsplash
By Kayla Kibbe / September 6, 2019 10:33 am

Vegetarian and vegan diets are often thought to be better for overall health than meat consumption, but a new study suggests that may not be the case. The study, published in the BMJ, found that those following meat-free diets may actually be at a higher risk of stroke than meat eaters, Time reported.

Meat lovers shouldn’t rejoice just yet, however. The study also found results confirming previous findings that suggest vegetarians and vegans have a lower risk of heart disease. Moreover, while both findings were relatively small, the lower risk of heart disease was actually more significant than the higher risk of stroke. The study’s researchers estimate that vegetarian diets are linked to  10 fewer cases of heart disease per 1,000 people over 10 years, compared to just three more strokes.

“It’s important to emphasize that we’ve looked at two outcomes here,” said study co-author Tammy Tong, a nutritional epidemiologist in the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health. “The lower risk of heart disease does seem to outweigh the higher risk of stroke.”

The study followed 48,ooo adults in the U.K. over a period of about 18 years. Throughout the course of the study, about 2,800 people developed heart disease and about 1,100 had a stroke. The researchers ultimately found a 20 percent higher rate of stroke and a 13 percent lower risk of heart disease among the study’s vegetarians compared to the meat-eaters. According to Tong, the lower risk of heart disease, even though it represents a lower percentage point than the increased risk of stroke, is actually the more significant finding because “stroke is a much rarer event than heart disease.”

Ultimately, while meat-free diets may pose a slightly higher risk of stroke, the health benefits (not to mention the environmental ones) still outweigh the risks, so these findings probably aren’t about to put an end to the alternative meat boom.

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