For the study, Loma Linda University researchers asked 73,308 Seventh-Day Adventists about their diets and then divided the participants into categories based on how often they consumed meat, eggs, fish, and dairy.
Of the participants, 21,117 were vegetarians who consumed dairy and egg products, 7,194 were pescatarians, and 5,548 were vegans. (The Seventh-Day Adventist religion recommends vegetarianism, according to the Seventh-Day Adventist Dietetic Association's website.)
Researchers studied the participants for six years and found that vegetarian participants had a 12% reduced risk of dying from all causes than non-vegetarian participants. Vegans and pescatarians also faced a lower mortality risk than meat eaters.
The findings suggested that a meat-free diet was even more beneficial for men than women. Vegetarian men had an even lower risk of dying from cardiovascular causes, while vegetarian women had about the same odds of cardiovascular-related death as meat-eating women.
"People should take these kinds of results into account as they're considering dietary choices," lead author Michael Orlich told Bloomberg News. He added that "[v]arious types of vegetarian diets may be beneficial in reducing the risk of death," such as a fish-eating vegetarian diet.
The new research does not stand alone. Earlier this year, the University of Oxford released a study that found vegetarian diets could cut heart disease risk by one-third. In March, a University of Zurich study highlighted the perils of meat consumption, finding that eating more than 20 grams of processed meat a day—the equivalent of one thin strip of bacon—increased the risk of dying from a stroke, cancer, or heart attack.
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