(NaturalNews) It isn't difficult to find peer-reviewed studies affirming the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Long-term vegetarianism has been linked to increased longevity, a decreased risk of cancer and diabetes, weight loss and improved digestion. However, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegetarianism can also guard us from heart disease by lowering our cholesterol and blood pressure.
Researchers at the University of Oxford monitored the blood pressure and cholesterol levels of 45,000 English and Scottish volunteers - 34 percent of whom were identified as vegetarian - between the early 1990s and 2009. During that period, 1,235 volunteers developed heart disease. 169 of them died from it, while the remaining 1,066 either recovered from the disease or continued to suffer with it.
After adjusting for external factors such as social background, age, education, alcohol consumption, and smoking status, the researchers found that the vegetarians had a 32 percent lower risk of heart disease than the meat eaters. The vegetarians also tended to have a lower body mass index and a lower risk of developing diabetes.
"The results clearly show that the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower than in comparable non-vegetarians," said study author and deputy director of the university's Cancer Epidemiology Unit Dr. Tim Key.
"Most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure, and shows the important role of diet in the prevention of heart disease," added study author Dr. Francesca Crowe.
Our bodies are not adapted to eating meat
The results of this new study shouldn't surprise anyone who understands the anatomy of the human body. Indeed, most of humanity has subsisted on a vegetarian or near-vegetarian diet throughout recorded history, and this diet suits our physiology well: our teeth (including our incisor teeth) are blunt; our intestinal tract is extended rather than short; our stomach's hydrochloric acid is often too weak to adequately digest meat and its parasites; our saliva is alkaline rather than acidic; and our hands are designed to pick fruit and till the earth, not capture prey.
While there is a time and place when eating animals is justified and even desirable (for instance, during survival situations or times when plant-based food sources are inadequate), most of us living in relative comfort and with access to a wide variety of foods have little need for semi-indigestible, acidic and pus-forming meats. Ultimately, this study by the University of Oxford is but the latest in a long line of studies that remind us why it is wise to listen to our body's needs rather than the advice of the contemporary food industry.
About the author: Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world's healthiest foods.