Cardiovascular Disease Mortality and Cancer Incidence in Vegetarians: A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review

Journal Article

Tao Huang, Bin Yang, Jusheng Zheng, Guipu Li, Mark L. Wahlqvist*, Duo Li
* MAI Emeritus Professor

Published in Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism 2012.
Free access to the full paper is available at the Journal website.

SUMMARY: Background: Prospective cohort studies have examined mortality and overall cancer incidence among vegetarians, but the results have been inconclusive. Aims: The objective of the present meta-analysis was to investigate cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer incidence among vegetarians and nonvegetarians. Methods: Medline, EMBASE and Web Of Science databases were searched for cohort studies published from inception to September 2011. Studies were included if they contained the relative risk (RR) and corresponding 95% CI. Participants were from the UK, Germany, California, USA, the Netherlands and Japan. Results: Seven studies with a total of 124,706 participants were included in this analysis. All-cause mortality in vegetarians was 9% lower than in nonvegetarians (RR = 0.91; 95% CI, 0.66–1.16). The mortality from ischemic heart disease was significantly lower in vegetarians than in nonvegetarians (RR = 0.71; 95% CI, 0.56–0.87). We observed a 16% lower mortality from circulatory diseases (RR = 0.84; 95% CI, 0.54–1.14) and a 12% lower mortality from cerebrovascular disease (RR = 0.88; 95% CI, 0.70–1.06) in vegetarians compared with nonvegetarians. Vegetarians had a significantly lower cancer incidence than nonvegetarians (RR = 0.82; 95% CI, 0.67–0.97). Conclusions: Our results suggest that vegetarians have a significantly lower ischemic heart disease mortality (29%) and overall cancer incidence (18%) than nonvegetarians.