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

Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;60(4):233-40. doi: 10.1159/000337301. Epub 2012 Jun 1.

Abstract

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.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • California / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology