New Study Suggests Healthy Vegetarian Diets May Enhance Longevity and Decrease Heart Disease Mortality

by Ella

In recent years, the discourse around dietary habits has shifted towards plant-centric diets, driven by ethical, environmental, and increasingly, health-related considerations. While the benefits of such diets have been touted, a comprehensive understanding of their long-term impacts requires extensive research and analysis.

A recent study conducted in Spain delves into the effects of plant-based diets on longevity, specifically assessing their influence on all-cause mortality and deaths related to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer among older individuals.


Research Methodology and Findings

The study, drawing data from the European Eye Study (EUREYE), scrutinized the dietary patterns and mortality rates of 597 participants aged 65 and above from the Spanish province of Alicante. Among the cohort, comprising 54.3% females, the researchers examined the associations between different types of vegetarian diets and mortality outcomes over a 12-year follow-up period.


Participants’ dietary habits were meticulously documented through food-frequency questionnaires, with mortality data sourced from governmental records. The study classified individuals’ pro-vegetarian (PVG) diets into three categories:


hPVG (Healthy Pro-Vegetarian) Diet


uPVG (Unhealthy Pro-Vegetarian) Diet

gPVG (General Pro-Vegetarian) Diet

The findings unveiled notable distinctions in mortality risks associated with varying degrees of adherence to these dietary patterns. Those adhering moderately to the healthy pro-vegetarian diet experienced a significant 41% reduction in all-cause mortality risk and a remarkable 53% decrease in CVD mortality risk compared to those with the lowest adherence.

Conversely, individuals closely following an unhealthy pro-vegetarian diet exhibited a 53% heightened risk of all-cause mortality and a staggering 110% increase in CVD mortality risk. Notably, adherence to a general pro-vegetarian diet did not correlate with any mortality outcomes in the study, consistent with previous research findings.

Defining Healthy and Unhealthy Pro-Vegetarian Diets

Dr. Menka Gupta, MD, IFMCP at NutraNourish, elucidated the components of a healthy pro-vegetarian diet, emphasizing nutrient-dense plant foods such as green vegetables, fruits, plant-based proteins, whole grains, nuts, and healthy oils, while eschewing processed and fried foods.

Conversely, an unhealthy pro-vegetarian diet comprises processed plant-based foods high in refined grains, sugars, and unhealthy fats, exemplified by items like veggie burgers with fries and sugary beverages, as outlined by Dr. Gupta.

Dr. Julia R. Blank, MD, board-certified family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, emphasized the detrimental effects of fried and processed foods typical of the unhealthy pro-vegetarian diet, which are linked to inflammation, elevated blood sugar, and increased cardiovascular risks.

Understanding the General Pro-Vegetarian Diet

The study identifies the general pro-vegetarian diet as one that emphasizes plant-based foods but incorporates some animal-based products, reflecting a transitional dietary approach. This diet, according to Dr. Gupta, scores plant foods positively and animal foods inversely, exemplified by meals like a chicken sandwich with salad.

Dr. Blank contends that the general pro-vegetarian diet reflects the gradual shift towards vegetarianism and mirrors real-life dietary habits more accurately, underscoring its relevance to individuals’ lifestyles.

Unraveling the Link Between Vegetarian Diets and Cancer

Despite the study’s findings showing no association between vegetarian diets and cancer mortality, Dr. Blank suggests several factors may underpin this outcome. While acknowledging the study’s size limitations in detecting rare cancer events, she highlights the intricate and protracted nature of cancer development, necessitating long-term investigations to elucidate dietary influences fully.

Dr. Blank also underscores potential confounding factors such as environmental contaminants in food, including microplastics and pesticides, which may contribute to long-term cancer risks, albeit requiring extended periods to manifest.


The study underscores the nuanced relationship between vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality outcomes, delineating stark differences between healthy and unhealthy pro-vegetarian diets. As research continues to unveil the multifaceted impacts of dietary choices on health and longevity, adherence to balanced, nutrient-rich plant-centric diets emerges as a compelling strategy for promoting overall well-being and mitigating disease risks.



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