Vegetarians live longer because of their diet - with men reaping the most benefits, claim researchers.
They found a cut in death rates for people eating vegetarian diets compared with non-vegetarians in a study of more than 70,000 people. Over a six-year period, vegetarians were 12 per cent less likely to die from any cause, says a report published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine.
It is thought the benefits come from lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels in people eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit. Vegetarian diets have been linked to lower risk for several chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.
An estimated three million Britons, around five per cent, are vegetarian and never eat meat or fish, including superstar musician Paul McCartney and his fashion designer daughter Stella McCartney.
Dr Michael Orlich, of Loma Linda University in California, and colleagues examined all-cause and cause-specific death rates in a group of 73,308 men and women Seventh-day Adventists. Researchers assessed dietary patients using a questionnaire that classified them into five groups: nonvegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian (includes seafood), lacto-ovo-vegetarian (includes dairy and egg products) and vegan (excludes all animal products).
The study said vegetarian groups tended to be older, more highly educated and more likely to be married, to drink less alcohol, to smoke less, to exercise more and to be thinner.