Vegetarians Found To Have More Cancer, Allergies And Mental Health Disorders
    By News Staff | April 3rd 2014 12:20 AM | 21 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Population-based studies have consistently shown that our diet has an influence on health - a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is recommended.

    But some people go overboard and just eat meat. Or just eat vegetables. Evidence for health benefits of exclusive diets is scant. Vegetarians are considered healthier, they are wealthier, they are more liberal, they drink less alcohol and they smoke less - but those are a lot of variables in health that don't necessarily result from being a vegetarian.

    A cross-sectional study taken from the Austrian Health Interview Survey AT-HIS 2006/07 found that vegetarians are actually less healthy than normal eaters. Subjects were matched according to their age, sex, and socioeconomic status leaving 1320 people - 330 vegetarians, 330 that ate meat but still a lot of fruits and vegetables, 300 normal eaters but that ate less meat, and 330 on a more carnivorous diet. 

    After controlling for variables, they found that vegetarians did have lower BMI and alcohol consumption but had poorer overall health. Vegetarians had higher incidences of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders, a higher need for health care, and poorer quality of life. 

    As a result, vegetarians take more medications than non-vegetarians.

    CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER SIZE. Differences in suffering from various chronic conditions between the different dietary habit groups. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088278

    There are limitations to this sort of study. A large number of participants and a need for controls means the questions must be kept simple. Just like vegetarians shouldn't embrace every population analysis that supports their beliefs, paleo diet people should not believe their lifestyle is necessarily healthier. People may have adopted a vegetarian lifestyle if they were already unhealthy, for example.

     But as America moves more toward public health care costs, we need to counsel people about diet fads like vegetarianism just like we will smoking and junk food. 

    Citation: Burkert NT, Muckenhuber J, Großschädl F, Rásky É, Freidl W (2014) Nutrition and Health – The Association between Eating Behavior and Various Health Parameters: A Matched Sample Study. PLoS ONE 9(2): e88278. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088278


    Before writing headlines like this I'd suggest reading some statistics 101 on what P values are and what is CHI square test actually shows. In your case there is no significant differences i.e. your statement is totally wrong!

    While I would personally agree that p values are used incorrectly, mostly in the social sciences and certainly they are trotted out as some gold standard even when they are clearly being invoked improperly, what have the researchers done wrong here? Telling them that their results are wrong and that what they say is statistically significant is different than what you would declare it is not telling the audience anything meaningful.
    In any case, if they can't pass statistics 101, I think we should be yelling at not only the authors but the journal editor who let it slide.

    They should have adjusted it for multiple comparisons. Since they had 17 tests, they should have used .05/17=0.003. That means that the result they found is probably just due to random chance. In fact the only one that would still be signficant would be food allergies.

    Reading completely the original study, you could discover that the vegetarians where affected by some patologies *before* becoming vegetarians. They adopted an healtier eating habit to enhance their health and so statistically they result more prone to illness than the carnivores.

    "This might indicate that the vegetarians in our study consume this form of diet as a consequence of their disorders, since a vegetarian diet is often recommended as a method to manage weight [10] and health [46]"

    How was the gender distribution within the groups? Just guessing, that there were more women in the vegetarian group, which might partly explain the higher prevalence of cancer (breast cancer) and migraine.

    It says in the article that they were matched by sex.

    The problem with diet, is like the problem with politics, people go to extremes. There are not vegetarian primitive people, you may go all the way to the Amazon Jungle, the Artic, Siberia, African jungle, and you won't find a single vegetarian primitive village, all of them survive in a diverse diet. They hunt animals, they collect vegetable, fruits and nuts.They do not eat cakes and ice creams, they do not eat dressings, ketchup, or mayonnaise. The animals they hunt, are not injected with hormones or antibiotics, the vegetable and fruits they eat are not poisoned with chemical, insecticides, etc. So, anybody that want to eat a good diet, should have a little bit of meat, a little bit of vegetables, a little bit of nuts, a little bit of grains and a little bit of fruits. That is the "primitive people" diet, that is what human should consume, that is the natural good food.

    You also have to look at cause and effect. Are people with anxiety disorders more likely to be sensitive individuals who will be more empathic and choose vegetarianism on moral grounds (I had an anxiety disorder long before I was vegetarian for 12 years).
    Were those with cancer treated partly by changing their diet (vegetarian diets are thought to aid treatment).
    This survey does not touch on these aspects at all as far as I can see.

    I'd like to see longitudinal studies of people who become vegetarians. Like Anonymous1970, I suspect people who become vegan and vegetarian may be trying to cure their health problems or otherwise aid their less than stellar health. I think the data here though is worth noting. Good find.

    Is this a joke? After all the years of research, like China Study?

    The results of this have been inflated so much; cross-sectional studies can't tell us anything about causality. I discuss more over @

    Off topic, but in my opinion, rather than 'Science' 2.0 Tom Tomorrow has coincidentally suggested a more appropriate name for this click hungry headlined site: "Science Stuff with your host: The Right Wing Science Dude"
    You should consider trying to pick it up!

    You read science on Daily Kos? No wonder the actual middle looks like the far right to you.
    "Right wing science dude"  lol what the heck have you been reading if you think Hank is right wing? 
    listen real science does not have an agenda.  This website presents real science, no agenda.  Well, no agenda other than to promote the concept of "open science".  A concept which has caught on. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    I don't think he/she meant me specifically, he was talking about global warming deniers in some cartoon on a politics site and figured if an article here (out of 120,000) violated his world view, he would assume we must be funded by Big Right-Wing Meat or whatever. What he/she does not seem to realize is that food fallacies are far more dominant on the left wing than global warming denial is on the right. And his/her comment proved it.

    Last weekend Fox and Friends Weekend had a three minute segment interviewing Erin Tolbert, about this study from Austria. Her point was that vegetarians were unhealthy and unhappy in general. Upon hearing that conclusion, I looked up the original research study to get the facts.

    The news story went off way beyond what the research clearly reported. Therefore, I wrote an in depth critique debunking the news segment. Please take a few minutes to read it on my blog, and click on the blog on the menu. I welcome any comments, both constructive and affirmations. I currently enjoy a varied, whole, plant-based, no oil diet.. (And I am very healthy and very happy!!!)

    Healthy Regards,
    Van White

    I feel the study, while interesting, is flawed because of some of the reasons stated earlier. I am actually a case in point: although I've been aware of healthy dietary choices for a very long time, going back to the 70's and Adele Davis, I didn't really adopt those practices until after I had a heart attack in 1991. After that, I pretty much "got religion" about food, supplements and exercise and have had no further cardiac problems.
    In addition, when I contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1997 and read about it's probable causes, most of what I read pointed to a connection with herbicides and pesticides as a cause, not food.
    To just say vegetarians (which I am close to, but not completely) are at a higher risk than non-veggies with no supporting evidence about previous lifestyle, or including all different types of cancers under a single heading of "Cancer," seems superficial, if not deceptive.

    seems superficial, if not deceptive.
    You have also declared superficial or deceptive 100 percent of studies that declared a vegetarian lifestyle healthier. Every single one used the same method, they surveyed eating habits and made a correlation to health and declared causation. 

    If you tried to say that supplements solved your heart problems, you would get laughed at, whereas exercise is obvious. So would you believe diet alone would have fixed your heart issues? Almost no one outside the advocacy community would say that but insiders do - and then object to any claim that diet may lead to worse health. It can't be one or the other; if food alone can have a drastic impact on health, that goes both ways.

    Do you believe if pesticides did not exist you would not have gotten cancer? Cancer existed thousands of years before pesticides did. 
    I am merely speaking to the "facts" in this study. I did not say that "supplements solved my heart problems," or that I wouldn't have contracted cancer if pesticides didn't exist, did I? What I am saying is that this particular study does not include all the relevant information to call it valid, and that, at the very least, the headline of this article may be deceptive. Settle down, Hank!

    You're missing the point; there is no study of food and health correlation that includes enough relevant information to make it valid. Would you have objected to the same methodology if it said vegetarians became healthier?
    How do find the time to spend sitting at your computer, making instant responses that don't agree with you? It's not a matter of missing THE point; it's a matter of me not responding to YOUR point that seems to disturb you. I responded to the article that was written. No more time for this.