Vegetarians versus meat eaters, who is healthier?



Vegetarians appear to have a healthier biomarker profile than meat eaters, and this applies to adults of any age and weight, and is also unaffected by smoking and alcohol consumption, according to a new study conducted in More than 166,000 UK adults, to be presented this week at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO).

Biomarkers can have both bad and good health effects, promoting or preventing cancer, cardiovascular and age-related diseases, and other chronic conditions, and have been used extensively to evaluate the effect of diets on health. However, the evidence for the metabolic benefits associated with being a vegetarian is unclear.

To find out whether the choice of diet can influence the levels of disease markers in blood and urine, researchers from the University of Glasgow conducted a cross-sectional study in which data from 177,723 healthy participants (37 to 73) were analyzed. years) from the UK Biobank study, who did not report any major changes in their diet over the past five years.

Participants were classified as vegetarians (they do not eat red meat, poultry, or fish; 4,111 participants) or meat eaters (166,516 participants) based on their self-reported diet. The researchers examined the association with 19 blood and urinary biomarkers related to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver, bone and joint health, and kidney function.

Even after taking into account potentially influential factors such as age, gender, education, ethnicity, obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption, the analysis found that, compared to meat eaters, vegetarians they had significantly lower levels of 13 biomarkers, including total cholesterol; low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the so-called “bad cholesterol”; apolipoprotein A (linked to cardiovascular disease), apolipoprotein B (linked to cardiovascular disease) gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) and alanine aminotransferase (AST) – markers of liver function that indicate inflammation or damage to cells; insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1; a hormone that promotes the growth and proliferation of cancer cells); uric acid; total protein; and creatinine (marker of worsening kidney function).

However, vegetarians also had lower levels of beneficial biomarkers, such as “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and vitamin D and calcium (related to bone and joint health). In addition, they had a significantly higher level of fats (triglycerides) in the blood and cystatin-C (which suggests a worse state of the kidneys).

No relationship was found with blood sugar levels (HbA1c), systolic blood pressure, aspartate aminotransferase (AST; a marker of liver cell damage) or C-reactive protein (CRP; inflammatory marker).

“Our results are food for thought,” says Dr. Carlos Celis-Morales, from the University of Glasgow (UK), who led the research. “In addition to not eating red and processed meats, which have been linked to heart disease and some cancers, people who follow a vegetarian diet tend to consume more vegetables, fruits and nuts, which contain more nutrients, fiber and other potentially beneficial compounds. These nutritional differences may help explain why vegetarians appear to have lower levels of disease biomarkers that can lead to cell damage and chronic diseases “.

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