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Mortality in British vegetarians

  • Paul N Appleby (a1), Timothy J Key (a1), Margaret Thorogood (a2), Michael L Burr (a3) and Jim Mann (a4)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1079/PHN2001248
  • Published online: 01 January 2007
Abstract
AbstractObjective:

To compare the mortality of British vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

Design:

Analysis of original data from two prospective studies each including a large proportion of vegetarians – the Oxford Vegetarian Study and the Health Food Shoppers Study. Standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) compared with the population of England and Wales were calculated from deaths before age 90 for vegetarians and non-vegetarians in each study. Death rate ratios (DRRs) for vegetarians compared with non-vegetarians within each study were calculated for each of 14 major causes of death.

Setting:

UK.

Subjects:

Twenty-one thousand men and women aged 16–89 years at recruitment, including more than 8000 vegetarians.

Results:

SMRs for all causes of death were significantly below the reference level of 100 in both studies: 52 (95% confidence interval (CI) 49–56) based on 1131 deaths in the Oxford Vegetarian Study and 59 (57–61) based on 2346 deaths in the Health Food Shoppers Study. For all causes of death, the DRR for vegetarians compared with non-vegetarians was close to one in both studies: 1.01 (95% CI 0.89–1.14) in the Oxford Vegetarian Study, 1.03 (0.95–1.13) in the Health Food Shoppers Study.

Conclusions:

British vegetarians have low mortality compared with the general population. Their death rates are similar to those of comparable non-vegetarians, suggesting that much of this benefit may be attributed to non-dietary lifestyle factors such as a low prevalence of smoking and a generally high socio-economic status, or to aspects of the diet other than the avoidance of meat and fish.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Email appleby@icrf.icnet.uk
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5M Thorogood , J Mann , P Appleby , K McPherson . Risk of death from cancer and ischaemic heart disease in meat and non-meat eaters. Br. Med. J. 1994; 308: 1667–70.

6JI Mann , PN Appleby , TJ Key , M Thorogood . Dietary determinants of ischaemic heart disease in health conscious individuals. Heart 1997; 78: 450–5.

9TJ Key , M Thorogood , PN Appleby , ML Burr . Dietary habits and mortality in 11000 vegetarians and health conscious people: results of a 17 year follow up. Br. Med. J. 1996; 313: 775–9.

12E Riboli , R Kaaks . The EPIC Project: rationale and study design. Int. J. Epidemiol 1997; 26(Suppl.): 6S14S.

16JP Vandenbroucke . Commentary: Should you eat meat, or are you confounded by methodological debate? Br. Med. J. 1994; 308: 1671.

18M Thorogood , L Roe , K McPherson , J Mann . Dietary intake and plasma lipid levels: lessons from a study of the diet of health conscious groups. Br. Med. J. 1990; 300: 1297–301.

19TJ Key , PK Verkasalo , E Banks . Epidemiology of breast cancer. Lancet Oncol. 2001; 2: 133–40.

20P Giem , WL Beeson , GE Fraser . The incidence of dementia and intake of animal products: preliminary findings from the Adventist Health Study. Neuroepidemiology 1993; 12: 2836.

21GE Fraser , PN Singh , H Bennett . Variables associated with cognitive function in elderly Californian Seventh-day Adventists. Am. J. Epidemiol. 1996; 143: 1181–90.

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Public Health Nutrition
  • ISSN: 1368-9800
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