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Two decades’ proof that plant-based food is best

Twenty years of studies into vegetarian and vegan food show benefits in terms of cancer and cardiovascular disease

Posted : 23 May 2024

What would it take to convince you that plant-based eating is healthier than eating meat? Two years’ worth of academic investigation? Five? What about 48 studies over the course of twenty years?

New analysis of two decades of research has underlined something that MFMers have known for far longer, that eating with people and planet in mind benefits the body as well as the environment.

An “umbrella” study looked back at 48 pieces of research conducted between January 2000 and June last year – from Association between plant-based diets and plasma lipids to Key elements of plant-based diets associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome – and found that in comparison with meat eating, a plant-based diet was far healthier.

Overall, vegetarian and vegan diets were found to be strongly associated with lower blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index, which means a lower risk of developing gastrointestinal and prostate cancer as well as cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and heart disease, and stroke, diabetes and fatty liver disease. As recently as last month, scientists in California found that a diet high in fruit and vegetables can slow the progression of prostate cancer.

The new study also found that pregnant women on plant-based diets faced no greater risk of high blood pressure or gestational diabetes – where the level of glucose in the blood is elevated during pregnancy – than those who ate meat.

In terms of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, the two main leading causes of death and disability worldwide, the researchers said their study shows “how a vegetarian diet can be beneficial to human health and be one of the effective preventive strategies for the two most impactful chronic diseases on human health in the 21st century”.

The findings are supported by another study from a few years ago that found meat eating contributed to the risk of nine serious illnesses, including heart disease, while even short bursts of plant-based eating has been shown to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke. Meanwhile, a 10-year Oxford University analysis found that Britons aged 40-70 have a 14 per cent lower risk of getting cancer if they are meat free eaters compared with those who ate meat more than five times a week.

Read the study

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