Hold the Burger: Vegetarians Less Likely to Have Diabetes and Heart Disease

Hold the Burger: Vegetarians Less Likely to Have Diabetes and Heart Disease

Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD

Need another reason to eat your greens? People who follow a plant-based diet are less likely to have specific "bad" bacteria in their gut that has been linked to increased risk for diabetes and heart disease, according to new research.

A metagenomic study of the gut microbes from more than 1,000 individuals found a statistically significant overlap between gut microbes associated with a healthy diet, and positive markers for cardiovascular health—including a lower likelihood for diabetes. Researchers were able to identify which study participants ate primarily plant-based diets based on their self-reported food diaries.

Both Vegetarians And Vegans Are At A Decreased Risk For Obesity And Heart-Related Diseases

A vegetarian diet bans animal meat but allows for dairy intake. Those following a vegan diet avoid all animal products. Both vegetarians and vegans are at a decreased risk for obesity and many heart-related diseases; vegans specifically are less likely to have unhealthy cholesterol levels—which makes sense, since saturated animal fats can contribute to high cholesterol.

While eating a plant-based diet does not necessarily limit simple sugars that can contribute to diabetes, a vegetarian diet may still benefit diabetics because of its emphasis on heart-healthy fruits and vegetables.

Whether you eat a plant based diet or do eat some meat, a healthy balance of the "good" bacteria in your gut can be achieved through probiotic intake and regular intake of healthy foods, including fermented foods like kimchi, miso and sauerkraut—all of which tend to be prepared as vegetarian dishes.

The study connecting eating vegetarian with heart health—published in the March 2021 issue of Nature Medicineis not the only recent report showing the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. A UK study of more than 177,000 British adults showed reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

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