What about the argument that vegetarians live longer?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 27, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Any studies show the opposite or is this a fact?

And if it is true is it just because they are compared against traditional Americans who do not care about their diet?



on November 27, 2012
at 02:27 PM

Just ask Linda McCartney, Steve Jobs, or MCA from the Beastie Boys how their vegan diet got them past 60. Vegans die of heart disease, cancer, and other kinds of degenerative conditions the same way us meat-eaters do.



on November 27, 2012
at 02:15 PM

I assume you are talking about AHS-2, the big Seventh Day Adventist study http://www.llu.edu/public-health/health/lifestyle_disease.page - lots of confounders there. The Weston Price site has a roundup of some of the other studies and the issues with them http://www.westonaprice.org/vegetarianism-and-plant-foods/not-to-go-vegetarian

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7 Answers


on November 27, 2012
at 01:32 PM

I would scrutinize any study that claims the vegan diet alone leads to longer life.

Person A's entire lifestyle needs to be studied to determine why they might live longer than person B. Most of the vegans I know live an all-around healthier lifestyle when compared to the average SAD couch potato.



on November 27, 2012
at 05:45 PM

Presumably any data showing vegetarians live longer than meat eaters come from observational studies. Observational studies simply crunch through data to come up with what seems to be a pattern. But such studies do NOT prove causation. As others have pointed out, the longevity of vegetarians might be entirely due to lifestyle choices ... or some other factor(s).

To prove causation you need to do some carefully controlled clinical trial. Unfortunately I don't think is doable when the outcome is death. :-)




on November 27, 2012
at 03:14 PM

live longer than whom? People who are eating lots of sugar and soda? People eating high amounts of processed crap?


Live longer than people whose diet is unprocessed, real food. With a focus on high quality vegetables and meat?



on November 27, 2012
at 01:33 PM

I'm not sure anyone would claim it's a fact. At best, it could be a theory with significant evidence to back it up. In any case, the response would have to be to look at the specific study or studies that back it up, and determine if the methodology is sound, if the statistics are sound, are the assumptions sound, etc. My guess would be, they likely are not. Unfortunately, many of us lack the time or vocabulary or knowledge of statistics or access to research or motivation to be able to do that effectively.



on November 27, 2012
at 01:32 PM

That's the general trend when vegetarians are studied. It likely correlates with being health conscious. Health conscious folks tend to follow conventional wisdom recommendations often. Reduce meat consumpion, consume PUFAs over saturated fats, eat whole grains, etc... But they also do things like exercise, go to do the doctor, maintain a normal weight, etc... so the question is, which is the true cause of their "better" health.

I seem to remember a study, quoted by somebody... maybe Robb Wolf, Denise Minger, Chris Kresser... comparing Taiwanese Buddhist vegetarians with Taiwanese non-Buddhist non-vegetarians. The claim was that they weren't vegetarian for health reasons and tended to eat everything non-vegetarians did, minus the meat. The result? No better health. (Again, I'm paraphrasing something I vaguely remember, maybe somebody knows this study intimately...)


on November 27, 2012
at 01:55 PM

There's a book called 'Blue-Zone' in which the geological pockets that reliably house the greatest life spans are studied.

I think it was commissioned/sponsored/published by National Geographic... could be wrong.

To my best overall understanding... the determining factors went far beyond diet. Where diet did play a part I think it reflected a harmonious relationship with the immediate environment.

If I remember correctly, these cultures were not strict vegetarian, but I don't think meat played as large a role as the average Paleo-dieter (do we have a title? lol).

This is how I remember it. It's been a few years since I read it, and it wasn't very gripping literature... so if anyone wants to tell me I've got it wrong I'm in no position to disagree.


on November 27, 2012
at 01:33 PM

There is a study that suggests that the lack of vitamin B in vegetarian diets puts vegetarians at higher risk of heart disease:


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