Are there any known health benefits of being a vegetarian?

Does it prevent or lower the risk of any diseases?

Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat.

  • Are you asking about all meat-free diets, or a specific kind of vegetarianism like lacto-ovo? Are you in fact asking "What are the health benefits of not eating meat?"
    – Nic
    May 14, 2018 at 18:03
  • Health benefits of vegetarianism in general, so basically benefits of not eating meat.
    – kenorb
    May 14, 2018 at 20:27

2 Answers 2


I gave an answer on Health Stack Exchange. Maybe it's worth quoting it here:

This subject is very broad and a detailed answer would require to be a whole book. Shortly I can say that vegetarians and vegans have lower rates of mortality (both by ischemic heart disease and total) (1-3) and lower incidence rates of diabetes (4) and cancer (5,6). Vegetarian diets are related to lower blood pressure (7,8), lower body weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) (3,9), lower serum levels of total and LDL cholesterol (3) (LDL is "the bad one"), lower levels of C-reactive protein (10) (= show a lower lever of chronical inflammation), and higher insulin sensitivity (11) (this means they're less prone to diabetes). All this has been found studying people that were already vegetarian or vegan at the moment of the study.

There are also experiments of people switching their diet to vegetarian or vegan for medical purpose, say get rid of diabetes or heart disease. A review of these successful experiments is here; basically people who switched to a low-fat lof-glycemic index vegan diet showed improvements in body weight, BMI, waist circumference, total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glycemic control, insulin resistance, less need for drugs, reduction of cardiac events, reversal of heart disease. (12-16)

If you want to read more scientific studies on vegetarianism you might also want to check these: 17-21.

Finally I would like to add my personal experience (3 years vegetarian + 8 vegan): I feel better, my mind is more active, I can keep working or studying after lunch, I stopped having terrible pain in the intestine (probably due to putrefaction of meat during digestion) and my blood analysis are perfect.


  1. Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R. Dietary and Lifestyle Determinants of Mortality among German Vegetarians. Int J Epidemiol. 1993;22(2):228-236. doi:10.1093/ije/22.2.228.

  2. Thorogood M, Mann J, Appleby P, McPherson K. Risk of death from cancer and ischaemic heart disease in meat and non-meat eaters. BMJ. 1994;308(6945):1667-1670. doi:10.1136/bmj.308.6945.1667.

  3. Key TJ, Fraser GE, Thorogood M, et al. Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70(3):516S-524. Available at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/516s.short. Accessed May 15, 2015.

  4. Snowdon DA, Phillips RL. Does a vegetarian diet reduce the occurrence of diabetes? Am J Public Health. 1985;75(5):507-512. doi:10.2105/AJPH.75.5.507.

  5. Huang T, Yang B, Zheng J, Li G, Wahlqvist ML, Li D. 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.

  6. Lanou AJ, Svenson B. Reduced cancer risk in vegetarians: an analysis of recent reports. Cancer Manag Res. 2010;3:1-8. doi:10.2147/CMR.S6910.

  7. Fu C-H, Yang CCH, Lin C-L, Kuo TBJ. Effects of long-term vegetarian diets on cardiovascular autonomic functions in healthy postmenopausal women. Am J Cardiol. 2006;97(3):380-3. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2005.08.057.

  8. Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ. Hypertension and blood pressure among meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans in EPIC-Oxford. Public Health Nutr. 2002;5(5):645-54. doi:10.1079/PHN2002332.

  9. Spencer EA, Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ. Diet and body mass index in 38000 EPIC-Oxford meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2003;27(6):728-34. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802300.

  10. Krajcovicova-Kudlackova M, Blazicek P. C-reactive protein and nutrition. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2005;106(11):345-7. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16541618. Accessed May 15, 2015.

  11. Kuo C-S, Lai N-S, Ho L-T, Lin C-L. Insulin sensitivity in Chinese ovo-lactovegetarians compared with omnivores. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004;58(2):312-6. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601783.

  12. Barnard, N. D., Cohen, J., Jenkins, D. J. A., Turner-McGrievy, G., Gloede, L., Green, A., & Ferdowsian, H. (2009). A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(5), 1588S–1596S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736H

  13. Ornish, D., Brown, S. E., Billings, J. H., Scherwitz, L. W., Armstrong, W. T., Ports, T. A., … Brand, R. J. (1990). Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lancet, 336(8708), 129–133. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(90)91656-U

  14. Esselstyn, C. B. (1999). Updating a 12-year experience with arrest and reversal therapy for coronary heart disease (an overdue requiem for palliative cardiology). The American Journal of Cardiology, 84(3), 339–341. doi:10.1016/S0002-9149(99)00290-8

  15. Jenkins, D. J. A., Kendall, C. W. C., Marchie, A., Faulkner, D. A., Wong, J. M. W., de Souza, R., … Connelly, P. W. (2003). Effects of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods vs lovastatin on serum lipids and C-reactive protein. JAMA, 290(4), 502–10. doi:10.1001/jama.290.4.502

  16. Jenkins, D. J. A., Kendall, C. W. C., Faulkner, D., Vidgen, E., Trautwein, E. A., Parker, T. L., … Connelly, P. W. (2002). A dietary portfolio approach to cholesterol reduction: combined effects of plant sterols, vegetable proteins, and viscous fibers in hypercholesterolemia. Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental, 51(12), 1596–604. doi:10.1053/meta.2002.35578

  17. Craig, Winston, J., Mangels, Ann, R., Craig, W. J., & Mangels, A. R. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(7), 1266–82. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2009.05.027

  18. Ferdowsian, H. R., & Barnard, N. D. (2009). Effects of plant-based diets on plasma lipids. The American Journal of Cardiology, 104(7), 947–56. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2009.05.032

  19. Jenkins, D. J. A., Kendall, C. W., Marchie, A., Jenkins, A. L., Augustin, L. S., Ludwig, D. S., … Anderson, J. W. (2003). Type 2 diabetes and the vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr, 78(3), 610S–616. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/610S.short

  20. Trapp, C. B., & Barnard, N. D. (2010). Usefulness of vegetarian and vegan diets for treating type 2 diabetes. Current Diabetes Reports, 10(2), 152–8. doi:10.1007/s11892-010-0093-7

  21. Trapp, C., & Levin, S. (2012). Preparing to Prescribe Plant-Based Diets for Diabetes Prevention and Treatment. Diabetes Spectrum, 25(1), 38–44. doi:10.2337/diaspect.25.1.38

  • I didn't go through all references, but (1) don't prove that vegetarianism is associated with lower mortality, though the authors appear to claim it. The article shows that the statistic models used to get the results were built on the vegetarian cohort only. They compare "strict" vs. "moderate" vegetarians, not vegetarians vs. non-vegetarians. Also, the only vegetarianism-linked statistically significant association (p<.05) was that moderate vege females had a lower total mortality than strict vege females (table 3).
    – Vincent
    Feb 13, 2017 at 10:42
  • 1
    I'm not advocating that vegetarianism is unhealthy, I just point out that : 1. The first article is arguably intellectualy dishonest and of low scientific value as for evaluating the effects of vegetarianism on mortality; 2. It is better to read the method and result section of articles than the abstract because this is unfortunatly not uncommon.
    – Vincent
    Feb 13, 2017 at 10:45

If the diet is properly planned, it can lead to several health benefits, which are indicated in this wiki article:

  • Longevity - in conjunction to other favorable life-style factors, it can lead to higher life expectancy:

The researchers found that a combination of different lifestyle choices could influence life expectancy by as much as 10 years.

  • Reducing of some specific health risks like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and cholesterol levels.

A general article that officially confirms possible benefits (for health and others) can be found here.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.