A new study released this week by the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) found that vegetarians have a healthier biomarker profile than meat eaters.  The researchers measured 19 disease markers in the blood and urine of 177,723 healthy adults who self-reported either as vegetarian (they ate no red meat, poultry, or fish) or as meat eaters over the last five years.  They found that the vegetarians had significantly lower levels of 13 biomarkers that indicated a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other illnesses.  These included lower total cholesterol (LDL & HDL), liver function markers that indicate inflammation and damage to cells, as well as markers for hormones that encourage growth and proliferation of cancer cells.  These findings existed even after accounting for other factors such as age, sex, obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Dr. Carlos Celis-Morales of the University of Glasgow, UK, who led the research, points out that ” as well as not eating red and processed meat which have been linked to heart diseases and some cancers, people who follow a vegetarian diet tend to consume more vegetables, fruits, and nuts which contain more nutrients, fiber, and other potentially beneficial compounds.  These nutritional differences may help explain why vegetarians appear to have lower levels of disease biomarkers that can lead to cell damage and chronic disease”.

If you are not already a vegetarian or vegan, you don’t have to give up meat “cold turkey”.  Any reduction of the meat in your diet which is replaced by whole, plant-based foods, will produce benefits.  You can even start by reducing the amount of meat in one meal so that it becomes a flavoring instead of the main event, like a veggie stir-fry with small chunks of chicken added.  You can also leave out the meat and add extra veggies in pastas, casseroles and other combo dishes where you won’t even miss the meat because of all the other yummy flavors that are included.  Find what works for you, and that you can do consistently, so that you can gain long-term benefits.

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