Mediterranean or Vegan: Which one is better?

by | Jun 20, 2013 | Health & News | 3 comments

Every day, we hear about some new diet craze – from the Paleo to the Alkaline Diet to the Blood Type Diet. Some proclaim that the Paleo diet which advocates following a Stone Age–inspired regimen featuring hunter-gatherer staples such as lamb, poultry, bison, and other lean game is the best. Modern favorites wheat, dairy, and legumes are not allowed in the Paleo.  While others cheer for the Mediterranean diet with its bran-and-heart healthy diet including olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish: occasional red meat and a moderate amount of cheese and wine.

mediterranean-diet-what-foods-to eat

Well, move over Mediterranean diet.  Here comes the vegetarian diet.  According to a recent study published in the June, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) a vegetarian diet is equally good for our health(1).

The 5 year study involved over 70,000 Seventh-Day Adventists  and found that people who ate a vegetarian diet were 12% less likely to have died over the course of the five year study than the non-vegetarians.  Researchers from Loma Linda University noted that the benefits of a vegetarian diet were especially significant for men, finding a drastic reduction in heart disease.

fruits_and_vegetables2

The study looked at 4 different groups of vegetarians.

Vegetarian Logo 101

A vegetarian diet can take a number of forms.  Here‘s the low-down on terminology:

1)      Vegan: excludes all animal products ( no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy or gelatin)

2)      Pesco-vegetarian: includes seafood

3)      Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: includes dairy and egg products

4)      Lacto-vegetarian: includes dairy products

5)      Ovo-vegetarian: includes eggs

Previous studies have also found similar results linking a vegetarian diet to reduced risk for heart disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.  A recent study from Oxford University involving 45,000 adults found that vegetarians were 32% less likely to suffer from heart disease than adults who ate meat and fish (2).  A Harvard University study of over 37,000 men and over 83,000  women, concluded that meat consumption raised the risk of total overall mortality, including death from heart disease and cancer.  According to researchers, eating meat influences long-term health with the worst offenders being processed meat and red meat.

 Should we switch from the Mediterranean diet and become vegetarians instead?  

Debate remains as to which diet is better – the Mediterranean or the Vegetarian.  There isn’t much data comparing these different healthy diets against each other.  Yet, there is good evidence that following either a Mediterranean diet or a vegetarian diet can lower cardiovascular risk and heart disease.  But whats even more compelling, both diets positively impact  inflammation, arrhythmic risk (irregular and deadly heart beats), endothelial dysfunction (unstable plaque), and thrombosis (clot formation).  According to cardiologist Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a Harvard Medical School professor, “the bottom line is that either diet is healthier than the typical American diet.”

In an editorial accompanying the Loma Linda study, Dr. Robert Baron, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, writes “ Our debates about the superiority of one diet over another have not  served the public well.  It is time to acknowledge the common features of diets associated with good clinical outcomes.”

Baseball, Hot Dogs & Apple Pie?

baseball apple pie and hot dog

Yes, it is time to realize that the typical American diet is probably not the healthiest. With July 4 right around the corner, let’s be mindful of what we are eating.  Be careful of those hot dogs and burgers on the grill and use your best judgment.   Moderation is always a good thing!

 

Dr. Diana

 Citations:

 

  1. Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study: online first 

Michael J. Orlich, MD; Pramil N Singh, DrPH; Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH; Karen Jaceldo-Siegl, DrPH; Jing Fan, MS; Synnove Knutsen, MD, PhD; W. Lawrence Beeson, DrPH; Gary E. Fraser, MBchB, PhD

JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():1-8. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473.

Published online June 3, 2013

2.  The Oxford Vegetarian Study: an overview.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10479226

Appleby PN, Thorogood M, Mann JI, Key TJ.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):525S-531S.

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