A vegetarian is someone who excludes meat, poultry, and seafood from hisher
diet. Some vegetarians also exclude dairy, and some may consume eggs. There are
four main types of vegetarian diets: a lacto-ovo-vegetarian consumes dairy
products and eggs but no meat, poultry, or seafood, a lactovegetarian eats
dairy products but not eggs, meat, poultry, or seafood; ,an ovo-vegetarian eats
eggs but no dairy products, meat, poultry, or seafood, and a vegan does not eat
any animal products, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products;
many vegans will also avoid honey. Vegetarianism has many effects on human

Vegetarians generally have a lower body mass index (BMI) and tend to be
more health conscious than non-vegetarians, health outcomes remain better even
when these factors are taken into account. Furthermore, a number of studies
have shown increased longevity among vegetarians. Research has linked higher
intakes of red meat and processed meat with an increased risk of obesity. A
large study investigating the association of a wide range of meat intakes with
chronic disease mortality found that both red and processed meat intakes were
associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and CVD
mortality. Low meat intake, on the other hand, has been associated with greater

The EPIC-Oxford study compared weight gain over 5 years in almost 22 000
meat-eating, fish-eating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women. Weight gain was
lowest in the vegan group and those who, during follow-up, had changed to a diet
containing fewer animal foods (key, T. Appleby, P. & rosell, M. 2006). The
same study reported a significant difference in age-adjusted BMI between the 4
diet groups, with meat eaters having the highest BMI, vegans the lowest BMI, and
fish eaters and vegetarians a similar. Foods such as whole grains and nuts are
more regularly consumed by vegetarians and have been independently associated
with a reduced risk of obesity and weight gain. A higher intake of red meat, on
the other hand, has been associated with an increased risk of weight gain.

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Cardiovascular Disease, “The most consistent evidence for the
health benefits of a vegetarian diet relates to a reduced risk of coronary
heart disease (CHD) and coronary disease mortality” (Sabate. 2011, p.78). Several studies have demonstrated a lower
incidence of CHD, and a combined analysis of 
5 prospective studies reported a 24% lower risk of mortality from
ischemic heart disease in vegetarians compared with meat eaters, with lactoovo
vegetarians having a 34% reduced risk and vegans a 26% reduced risk. The
benefit was apparent in those who had followed their diet for at least 5 years
and was greater in younger age groups. These findings are perhaps not
surprising considering that vegetarians generally have a better cardiovascular
risk profile than non-vegetarians, with lower total and low-density lipoprotein
cholesterol levels, a lower body weight, and a lower incidence of diabetes, and
hypertension, all of which contribute to CVD risk.

Some vegetarian diets might be anticancer. cancer rates in vegetarians
appear to be moderately lower than others living in the same communities, and
life expectancy appears to be greater. However, results for specific cancers
are less convincing and require more study. Most of the research conducted on
vegetarian diets and cancer has involved lacto-ovo-vegetarians. Of the studies
looking at vegan groups, most only cover a short period of time or a small
group. Furthermore, many Western vegetarians choose a meat-free diet for its
health benefits in addition to other health or lifestyle practices, such as
abstaining from smoking and avoidance or moderate consumption of alcohol which
are also linked with cancer risk.

     In conclusion, well-planned vegetarian
diets are not only nutritionally adequate but also provide many health
benefits, particularly in the prevention and treatment of many chronic
diseases. In fact, in Western countries, a vegetarian diet may present a
significant advantage over meat-based diets, and a number of studies have shown
increased longevity in vegetarians. Although potentially lower in some
nutrients, careful planning can help ensure that both vegetarian and vegan
diets meet all the current recommended intakes for essential nutrients as well
as maximize the intake of protective components present widely in plant foods.
In fact, a vegetarian diet may well be one of the best ways to meet population
dietary guidelines.


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