Skip the meat? Considering the cardiovascular benefits of pescatarian, vegetarian diets

Adverse cardiovascular outcomes—including myocardial infarctions and strokes—are less common among individuals who eat fish instead of meat or poultry, according to a new study published in European Heart Journal. Vegetarian diets, meanwhile, may lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)—but there was no significant difference in adverse cardiovascular outcomes.

Data from more 422,000 participants was taken from the UK Biobank database. While 55.4% of participants were women, 94.7% regularly ate meat as a part of their diet. The median follow-up period was 8.5 years.

Overall, the team found that diets where fish replaced meat or poultry were associated with a lower risk of CVD, ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke and heart failure. CVD was less common among vegetarians, but the likelihood of adverse cardiovascular outcomes was not significantly changed.

These various benefits, the authors added, “were strongest in men and individuals who were not obese.”

One key takeaway from the analysis was that vegetarians don’t always replace meat with healthier options.

“As a group, vegetarians consumed more unhealthy foods, such as crisps, than meat-eaters,” wrote lead author Fanny Petermann-Rocha, of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, and colleagues. “Therefore, vegetarians should not be considered a homogeneous group, and avoidance of meat will not be sufficient to reduce health risk if the overall diet is not healthy.”

Click here for the full analysis.