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A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine says vegetarians and vegans–and most dramatically pescatarians (fish eaters)–live longer than omnivores. Should you make the switch?

Vegetarian deaths 12 percent lower

The study, published in the June 3 edition of JAMA Internal Medicine, was conducted by Dr. Michael J. Orlich of Loma Linda University in California and his colleagues. It analyzed results from a six-year observation (from 2002-2007) of more than 70,000 Seventh Day Adventist participants. Dr. Orlich’s analysis also considered death records through 2009. Compared to deaths of omnivores and non-vegetarians, all vegetarian deaths were 12 percent lower, according to Dr. Orlich.

More specifically:

  • pescatarian deaths were 19 percent lower
  • vegan deaths were 15 percent lower
  • lacto-ovo vegetarian deaths were 9 percent lower
  • semi-vegetarian deaths were 8 percent lower

So, if you’re going to make a change based on the study, pescatarian or vegan diets are associated with the most significant positive impact on your mortality. 

Don’t drop that meatball just yet

If you’re not already a pescatarian or vegan, you don’t need to rush to drop meat from your diet this instant. While evidence suggests that a vegetarian diet may lead to reduced mortality, the relationship isn’t well established and more study is needed, according to Dr. Orlich. And, since the initial study was observational, it’s difficult to determine whether the vegetarian diet is the cause of the lowered mortality or is simply associated with lowered mortality.

The study does suggest that some vegetarians see reduced mortality, particularly for certain causes of death. These areas include cardiovascular mortality, noncardiovascular noncancer mortality, renal mortality and endocrine mortality. Men tend to gain more mortality benefit than women from a vegetarian diet, according to the study. “These favorable associations should be considered carefully by those offering dietary guidance,” said Dr. Orlich. 

If you do decide to switch to a pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan diet, consult your nutritionist or health professional to make the switch in a healthy manner. Keep in mind nutrients and vitamins (like B12, vitamin D and iron) that you may need to find new sources of in your new diet.

Whether you eat meat or not, you need to maintain a healthy balance including all of the food groups. Don’t just switch to convenience mock meats and expect to be healthier. Do consider these five reasons to eat a vegetarian meal occasionally even if you don’t go vegetarian.

Keep in touch with Kristi on Twitter @VeggieConverter and Pinterest.

Image: richardgiles