Mortality in British vegetarians: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford)

Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1613S-1619S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736L. Epub 2009 Mar 18.


Background: Few prospective studies have examined the mortality of vegetarians.

Objective: We present results on mortality among vegetarians and nonvegetarians in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford).

Design: We used a prospective study of men and women recruited throughout the United Kingdom in the 1990s.

Results: Among 64,234 participants aged 20-89 y for whom diet group was known, 2965 had died before age 90 by 30 June 2007. The death rates of participants are much lower than average for the United Kingdom. The standardized mortality ratio for all causes of death was 52% (95% CI: 50%, 54%) and was identical in vegetarians and in nonvegetarians. Comparing vegetarians with meat eaters among the 47,254 participants who had no prevalent cardiovascular disease or malignant cancer at recruitment, the death rate ratios adjusted for age, sex, smoking, and alcohol consumption were 0.81 (95% CI: 0.57, 1.16) for ischemic heart disease and 1.03 (95% CI: 0.90, 1.16) for all causes of death.

Conclusions: The mortality of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study is low compared with national rates. Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters, but the study is not large enough to exclude small or moderate differences for specific causes of death, and more research on this topic is required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet, Vegetarian / adverse effects*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Lipids