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4-23-14 Black Vegetarians at Lower Risk for Heart Disease, Adventist Health Study Says
Loma Linda University
ANN | NAD Staff
Among more than 26,000 black Seventh-day Adventists, those who are vegetarians are at lower risk for heart disease, compared with their meat-eating counterparts, according to results of a new Loma Linda University Health study.
The study, available online now in the journal Public Health Nutrition, compared the cardiovascular risk factors between black vegetarians and non-vegetarians who are part of the ongoing Loma Linda University Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2).
AHS-2, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a long-running study of members throughout North America of the Seventh-day Adventist Church focusing on nutrition, lifestyle, and health outcomes. The Seventh-day Adventists are a unique study subject because they have a wide variety of dietary habits, but in general have a very low percentage of alcohol consumption or cigarette smoking – non-dietary factors that may otherwise impact the study.
The new results show a hierarchy of protection received by black participants in the study based on their eating habits: Vegans (those who completely abstain from meat and meat products) and lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who consume eggs and dairy) were the least at risk for cardiovascular disease; followed by semi-vegetarians (those who infrequently eat meat); pesco-vegetarians (those who eat fish); and lastly, non-vegetarians.
A study conducted by the Medical University of Graz in Austria, recently found that vegetarian diets are tied to generally poorer health, poorer quality of life and a higher need for health care. This study, which examined the health of 1,320 vegetarians over a shorter period of time, contained flaws according to Austrian researchers. The study stands in direct contrast to the findings of the Adventist Health Study 2.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church has always stressed the importance of a vegetarian diet as part of its health message,” said Katia Reinert, PHDc, director of Health Ministries for the Adventist Church in North America.
“This important, comprehensive study is validating that the closer we get to a natural, plant-based diet, the less risk for illness and the better chance of living a long and healthy life,” added Reinert.
The study results show that compared with their non-vegetarian counterparts, black vegetarian Adventists were at less risk for hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure, total cholesterol, and high blood-LDL cholesterol. The study was a cross-sectional analysis of the data, and does not conclusively establish cause. In the future, the study involving black subjects also plans to look directly at heart disease experience rather than risk factors for heart disease.
Patti Herring, PhD, MA, RN, associate professor at Loma Linda University School of Public Health and one of the study’s co-investigators, said “some findings for black Adventists are promising and we are anxious to compare black Adventist health with the general population of blacks. In so doing, we suspect that black Adventists’ health will prove better in many regards, than those in the general population, particularly for the vegetarians.”
“There’s a growing body of evidence that vegetarian diets lower the risk for cardiovascular diseases and other diseases,” she said, noting that AHS-2 is one of the few that has such a large number of black participants, which is important since they generally have some of the worst health outcomes among minority populations.
Periodic findings of the ongoing AHS-2 study have been previously reported by major international news agencies. Last year, a journal of the American Medical Association reported AHS-2 findings that vegetarians experienced 12 percent fewer deaths over a six-year period of research.