Teams of researchers collaborate to investigate ways to live better. Now accumulative data has been collected on the best diet to follow. What does science say?
In the 1920s, The King’s Fund – an English charity that shapes health and social care policy – states the average life expectancy for a man was 55 years old.
For women, life expectancy was 59 years old. Now, 100 years on, both genders will live to an average of 81 years old.
Researchers from the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, at Zhejiang University, conducted an international review on the health status of non-vegetarians and vegetarians.
They analysed seven studies, looking at the data of 124,706 participants from the UK, Germany, America and Japan.
From their research, they discovered that all causes of death were nine percent lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians.
Conditions included ischemic heart disease, circulatory diseases and cerebrovascular diseases (such as stroke).
Another research team from Loma Linda University, California, wanted to investigate the relationship between vegetarian dietary patterns and reduced mortality (risk of death).
They examined 73,308 participants and concluded that vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality.
Interestingly, they found that men tended to benefit more than a woman from being a vegetarian.
A strictly vegetarian diet doesn’t include meat, poultry or fish.
The data revealed that vegans had a 15 percent lower risk of dying prematurely from all causes.
This suggests that vegans may live longer than those who adhere to a vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet.
How the vegan diet differs to the vegetarian diet
The vegan diet is plant-based, much like vegetarians. This means fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nut and seeds are consumed.
However, the vegan diet doesn’t incorporate any animal products, such as eggs, cheese or milk.
It also refrains from animal by-products, such as honey and gelatine.
The NHS stated: “You can get most of the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet.”
Dairy alternatives include soya drinks and yoghurts, but how do those following a vegan diet get the calcium they need?
The NHS confirmed that green, leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra – are good sources of calcium for vegans.
Additionally, fortified soya, sesame seeds, tahini and pulses can do the job.
What about iron?
Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells in the body.
Mostly found in meat, vegans can still receive iron from plant-based foods.
Although, it must be noted that the body is more effective at extracting iron from meat than plant-based alternatives.
Nonetheless, wholemeal bread and flour, breakfast cereals fortified with iron, watercress, spring greens and dried prunes, figs and apricots contain iron.