Intended for healthcare professionals


Vegetarian diets and health

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 04 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5272

Linked research

Risks of ischaemic heart disease and stroke in meat eaters, fish eaters, and vegetarians over 18 years of follow-up

Re: Vegetarian diets and health

A recently published Editorial on the ‘Vegetarian diets and health” in the BMJ is interesting. We agree that a solitary report of an increased risk of stroke in the vegetarians should not be taken as concluding evidence and must be kept under review for future researchers. It may actually mislead people to believe in it and frighten them also. A vegetarian diet has numerous documented advantages e.g. reducing the risk hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity and even some type of cancers. Overall the vegetarian diet may also lead to a longer life expectancy. The awareness about the advantages of a vegetarian diet is on the rise across the world and more and more non-vegetarian consumers are now slowly turning partially or fully towards the vegetarian diet.

Interestingly, there are several types of vegetarians known in the society: a) Pure vegetarians, who do not consume any type of animal products or eggs, but consume all types of dairy products, b) Vegans, who avoid all the animal-based foods, c) Lacto vegetarians, who consume dairy products , but no eggs, d) Lacto-Ovo vegetarians, who avoid the flesh of all animals, e) Ovo-vegetarians, who do not consume dairy products but can have eggs and f) Pescatarians, who can eat fish but not meat.
The majority of our Indian population is still vegetarian (@70%) and enjoy reasonable health. In fact, the life expectancy of the population has been increasing significantly since our independence in 1947, and we believe that our majority culture of a vegetarian diet may be an important contributory factor to it, as a vegetarian diet can provide a wide variety of healthful, nutritious foods. A vegetarian, however, needs to make careful choices about their diet and to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure that they meet their nutritional requirements and avoid any deficiencies like that of Vitamins (B12, D), Protein, Calcium, etc.

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 September 2019
Sr. Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons
Ms. Pallavi Vaishya (Sr. Consultant Dietitican & Nutritionist)
Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals
Sarita Vihar, Mathura Road, New Delhi