Oxford University scientists have confirmed the benefits of a vegetarian diet for heart health.
Vegetarians have long been convinced of the benefits of their dietary choices, and a new study appears to have confirmed their confidence in the diet.
Scientists at the University of Oxford say that the risk of being hospitalised or dying from heart disease is 32 per cent lower in vegetarians than in people who eat meat and fish.
Their study looked at data on almost 45,000 people from England and Scotland, all of whom enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study in the 1990s and were followed until 2009.
Just over a third (34 per cent) of participants were vegetarian, enabling the researchers to look at their relative risk of heart disease compared with meat-eaters.
Overall, the researchers found that the risk of heart disease was about a third lower in vegetarians than in non-vegetarians, even after factors such as age, smoking status, alcohol intake, exercise, education and socioeconomic background had been taken into account.
With heart disease claiming 65,000 lives each year in the UK, the findings - which are published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition - could have important implications for prevention.
Study co-author Professor Tim Key, deputy director of the University of Oxford's Cancer Epidemiology Unit, confirmed: "The results clearly show that the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower than in comparable non-vegetarians."
Dr Francesca Crowe, also from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, added that most of the difference in risk is probably caused by effects on cholesterol and blood pressure.
On average, vegetarians also tended to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than meat-eaters and were less likely to be diagnosed with type-2 diabetes.
Humans can live perfectly healthily - perhaps even more so - without eating meat and fish; however, they must keep an eye on their diet to ensure they get enough protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and iron.
All of these can be obtained in adequate amounts by eating a healthy and balanced diet, but many vegetarians also choose to take food supplements, such as Klamath Blue Green Algae.
This organic wholefood supplement contains one of the only vegetarian sources of vitamin B12 and provides more than 100 per cent of the recommended daily intake, along with high-quality protein, calcium, zinc and iron.