Opinion article* published in The Conversation written by Associate Professor Surinder Barnes, Associate Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle.

Ethical and environmental considerations are often the prompt for adopting a meat-free diet. But better health may also push some towards vegetarianism, with a new study showing vegetarians have a lower risk of premature death than their meat-eating counterparts.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study of more than 70,000 Seventh-day Adventists placed the participants into five groups: non-vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian (includes seafood), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (includes dairy and egg products) and vegans.

Overall, the authors found a 12% reduction in premature death for the vegetarian groups, over a period of just under six years. The benefit was more pronounced for men, though the reason for this difference is not clear.

The researchers also reported the vegetarian groups were likely to be older, married, highly educated and tended to exercise more.

But there are a number of shortfalls to this study. The participants were only asked about their diets in an initial survey, so dietary patterns may have changed over time. It’s also possible that some people in the vegetarian groups, including vegans, may have consumed some animal foods such as eggs, dairy, fish and meat.

Read the full article in The Conversation.

* Opinion pieces represent the author’s views.