JVS image - Family preparing vegetarian meal

The world’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), states that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” It adds that “[w]ell-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”1

New studies and reports are continually being published recommending we move towards a plant-based diet in order to help prevent heart disease, diabetes, strokes and some forms of cancer. In 2010, for example, research performed by Oxford University found that 45,000 lives a year (and £1.2 billion in NHS costs) would be saved in the UK by people reducing their meat intake: 31,000 from heart disease, 9,000 from cancer, and 5,000 from stroke2.

In addition, vegetarians generally have stronger immune systems3, live longer than meat-eaters4 and they are less likely to be overweight or obese5.

Heart Disease, Diabetes and stroke

A 2010 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that as little as 50 g of processed meat a day (e.g. one sausage) increases the risk of diabetes by 19 per cent and coronary heart disease by 42 per cent6.

According to 2011 research from Loma Linda University, vegetarians experience a 36 percent lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome than non-vegetarians. Because metabolic syndrome can be a precursor to heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, the findings indicate vegetarians may be at lower risk of developing these conditions7.

A study comparing the diet and blood pressure of 4,680 men and women aged 40 to 59 in four countries, by Professor Paul Elliott of Imperial College, London, found that those who ate more vegetable protein tended to have lower blood pressure than those who ate meat8.


Professor T Colin Campbell PHD of Cornell University, author of the world’s largest ever epidemiological study into nutrition, The China Study, linked eating meat with accelerated cancer. He also found that consuming dairy products can increase the risk of breast cancer9.

The American Cancer Society refers to studies which link eating large amounts of processed meat to increased risk of colorectal and stomach cancers10.

The World Cancer Research Fund recommends we “choose mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat”11.

As far as good health goes, reducing one’s meat intake or cutting it out altogether and turning vegetarian appears to be the best way forward.


  1. “Vegetarian Diets”, Position Papers, American Dietetic Association, Volume 109, Issue 7, July 2009, pp. 1266-1282. []
  2. Healthy Planet Eating, Friends of the Earth, October 2010. []
  3. []
  4. “Benefits Of Vegetarianism: Vegetarians Live Longer”, Huffington Post, 21 June, 2008. []
  5. “Vegetarian Diets May Protect Against Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes”, Medscape Medical News, 14 May, 2009. []
  6. Hu FB et al, Dietary fat intake and the risk of coronary heart disease in women, NEJM, 1997, 337, p.1491. []
  7. “Vegetarians May Be at Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes and Stroke”, Science Daily, 13 April, 2011. []
  8. “Vegetable protein helps in fight against strokes and heart disease”, The Guardian, 10 January, 2006. []
  9. []
  10. []
  11. []

Further Information


For advice about healthy vegetarian diets, visit the NHS Live Well website.


Planeat traces three men's life-long search for a diet which is good for our health, good for the environment and good for the future of the planet. It’s available to watch at the Planeat website for £4.10. (All money raised from sales is put towards the marketing of the film and its message: "to help people eat in a more healthy and environmentally sustainable way".)

Forks Over Knives

Forks Over Knives (available as a film and book) examines the claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. The film traces the personal journeys of pioneering researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. Both the book and DVD are available fromAmazon.

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