Vegetarianism and Longevity

Many large population studies have found that vegetarians and vegans live longer than meat eaters: According to the Loma Linda University study, vegetarians live about seven years longer and vegans about fifteen years longer than meat eaters. The Cornell-China-Oxford project on Nutrition, Environment and health, conducted by Cornell University, Oxford University and Chinese researchers- to date the largest population study on the relationship of diet to health- found that those Chinese who ate the least  amount of animal products had correspondingly lower risks of cancer, heart attacks, and other chronic degenerative diseases. A British study tracked 6,000 vegetarians and 5,000 meat eaters for twelve years and found that vegetarians were 40 percent less likely to die from cancer during that time and 20 percent less likely to die from other diseases.

Every once in a while we read in the newspaper about an active centenarian dying peacefully in his or her sleep despite having, for the last eighty years, smoked, drunk alcohol, and eaten meat. These people are genetic superstars who were able to mistreat their bodies with health-robbing substances and still live a long time by virtue of the strength of their genetic inheritance. Who knows how much longer they might have lived, or how much better the quality of life they might have enjoyed, had they eaten lower on the food chain- specifically, a plant-based diet. Emulate their lifestyle at your peril!

The twentieth-century playwright George Bernard Shaw waxed ironic:
“The average age (longevity) of a meat eater is 63. I am on the verge of 85 and still work hard as ever. I have lived quite long enough and am trying to die; but I simply cannot do it. A single beef-steak would finish me; but I cannot bring myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with a dread of living forever. That is the only disadvantage of vegetarianism.”
Excerpt from “The Compassionate Diet: How What You Eat Can Change Your Life and Save the Planet” by Arran Stephens (Rodale Books 2011)

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