Can you rely on a plant-based diet for longevity? That is, can you live longer as a vegetarian? There appears to be reliable evidence that you can, but the picture isn’t simple. A massive study published in 2016 found a clear relationship between avoiding meat and living longer, but it was not without some interesting surprises.
Plant-Based Diet for Longevity
The study, “Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality,” (JAMA Internal Medicine) looked at 131,342 participants. This must be one of the largest nutrition studies ever done. The researchers assessed eating habits with “regularly updated validated food frequency questionnaires” over 18 months.
They found that eating animal protein was associated with more cardiovascular deaths. And eating plant-based protein was associated with fewer cardiovascular deaths. A plant-based diet, in other words, seems to promote a healthier heart. In addition, they found that the plant-based diet was associated with fewer deaths from all causes! But for the 18 months of the data period, eating meat had no effect on overall mortality, just cardiovascular death.
The Most Benefit for Those Most at Risk
The researchers also looked at lifestyle risk factors: overweight, lack of physical activity, significant alcohol intake, and smoking. People with one or more risk factors got the biggest longevity benefit from eating plant protein. That is to say, adopting a plant-based diet is most likely to extend your life if you’re already putting it at risk with other lifestyle choices.
One thing to remember: this wasn’t a clinical study. A clinical study would require separating people into different groups, then controlling the diets of the different groups. Then you would watch who died. That kind of study is incredibly difficult and costly to perform. This study, however, used the data of what people ate and what they died of to find statistical associations. You could say it is an epidemiological study of meat eating.
The Skills of Plant-Based Living
So why doesn’t everyone embrace a plant-based diet and live longer? I think what holds people back from the plant-based lifestyle is most often a lack of skills and knowledge. We lead busy lives. It’s easier to eat the foods you’ve always eaten. When you’re hungry, why not just get a burger? But what if you knew how to shop for healthy foods so you always had them around? What if you knew how to prepare a wholesome, good-tasting plant-based meal in just minutes? What if you understood how to live a plant-based life even while traveling or eating out?
To help you acquire the essential skills and knowledge of plant-based living, we are scheduling a special event at Peak Recovery & Health Center. “The Secrets of Plant-Based Living” is a fun, informative workshop featuring Lauren D’Agostino, the Intuitive Chef. The workshop is on Saturday, January 18, at 2:00 PM, here at Peak. Admission is $10 and includes a $25 coupon for a Peak recovery service. This is the first time we’ve done this kind of workshop, so we don’t know how quickly it will fill up. Reserve your place at The Secrets of Plant-Based Living website.
Photo: “Vegetarian” by Holly Williams. Creative Commons license.