These days, it seems like every type of lifestyle choice contributes to a medical condition — even those touted as healthy. Case in point, a new study that found vegetarians are at a higher risk for stroke than meat eaters has some people scratching their heads. Published in the journal BMJ, the study by researchers from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at Oxford University examined data from more than 48,000 people in the UK — who had no history of heart disease or stroke — over an 18-year period. The groups studied included meat eaters, those who ate fish but no meat, and vegetarians and vegans.
While vegans, vegetarians, and fish eaters had a 13% lower risk for ischaemic heart disease, they were 20% more likely than meat eaters to experience a stroke, the study reported. However, despite these findings, researchers said the results are not conclusive. “Additional studies in other large scale cohorts with a high proportion of non-meat eaters are needed to confirm the generalizability of these results and assess their relevance for clinical practice and public health,” lead study author Dr. Tammy Tong said in a press release.
What’s more, another recent study of more than 70,000 people published in JAMA Internal Medicine found links between a plant-based diet and living a longer life. “Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, mainly for red or processed meat protein, was associated with lower risk of total, cancer-related, and cardiovascular disease–related mortality,” that study reported.
In the Oxford University study, researchers cited several Japanese studies and speculated that difficulty getting key nutrients, like vitamin B12, vitamin D, essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein), and long chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, from some vegan and vegetarian diets could explain the higher stroke risk.