Vegans and Vegetarians Still Die - But Do They Live Longer?

I have a friend who has become a vegetarian flirting with becoming a vegan. An easy search on the internet did not reveal what vegetarians and vegans die of. If you were to listen to them, it seems like they think they will live forever. Anyway, this peaked my curiosity.

Here is some of the research I have found.

Mortality among German vegetarians: first results after five years of follow-up

This study showed that vegetarians lived longer. The researcher expected 219 deaths among his research group based on normal death statistics; however, his group 1,904 participants only had 82 deaths. He concluded, "In both sexes, the mortality was lowest from cardiovascular diseases [standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for ischemic heart disease about 20] and from cancer (SMR 58 for men, 54 for women). Deaths from diseases of the respiratory and digestive system were also reduced. For individual cancer sites the observed numbers were extremely small, but the risk of dying from lung cancer was significantly reduced; however, deaths from cancers of the colon and rectum, prostate, and breast were rare or even absent. More deaths than expected were observed from stomach, pancreatic, testicular, and brain cancers."

After 11 years, the results were similar. There was less death among the vegetarians; however, the vegetarians still died some. And they saw an increase in death from anemia in the vegetarians.

The study continued after 25 years, showing that vegetarians did live longer.

One of the thing that slants studies on vegans and vegetarians is that the subjects are usually concerned with their health. Often, that is the reason for them becoming vegetarians. This makes them less likely to smoke, as was the case in the German study. The study also showed that they mainly resided in a higher socioeconomic class than their fellow humans who eat meat. These elements would influence the results whether they were vegan, vegetarians, or full-blooded carnivores.

Dr. Pramil Singh also did a study. I did not look at the original study because I am being a lazy researcher and am trying to do all this in two hours or less. An article in Arts & Opinion entitled Do Vegetarians Live Longer cited the study. Singh noted, "Survival data indicate that long-term vegetarians do experience a significant 3.6-year survival advantage over short-term vegetarians." The life expectancy for a long-term (20 years) vegetarian was 86.5 compared to 82.9 for non-vegetarians. This article also stated, "As is the way with these things, of course, not all the evidence supports enhanced lifespan. One British study into longevity and diet based on 4600 people found no difference." So I have no idea what to believe.

Animal experiment - vegan rats die early and have low energy

There are studies with rats that show the vegan diet is unhealthy in rats. I could really care less with what diet is good for rats. These studies seem fairly irrelevant to the discussion.

In the end, I am left to conclude that vegans and vegetarians, like carnivores, still die. I cannot find a good source that tells me what they die of, but I would assume it is a disease of some sort unless they all just die of self-inflicted gunshot wounds because they do not want any more broccoli. Whatever the case, I am still trying to figure out if I would live longer as a vegetarian diet and whether I would want those four more years in my eighties.

If you know of a good study, please pass it along and I will include it in this post.