Loma Linda Studies: Eat Vegan, Be Slimmer; Eat Walnuts, Live Better?
Research grabs national attention
Two Loma Linda University Health studies explore benefits of dietary practices long advocated on the campus—vegetarian nutrition and nut consumption. One study has released surprising results on a positive side effect of vegetarianism and veganism, while the other study is poised to study the health effects of walnuts on older people.
first, the long-running Adventist Health Studies, recently yielded an encouraging finding for vegetarians. After evaluating data collected from more than 70,000 Seventh-day Adventists in the United States and Canada, researchers announced that vegetarians are slimmer, on average, than meat eaters.
The study found that despite similar caloric intake, vegetarians enjoy a lower body mass index (BMI) than meat eaters, while vegans—people who eat no animal products—are slenderest of all. The study compared five groups: non-vegetarians (meat eaters); semi-vegetarians (occasional meat eaters); pesco-vegetarians (people who eat fish, but not meat); lacto-ovo vegetarians (people who consume dairy products); and vegans (strict vegetarians).
Results reveal that the average BMI was highest among non-vegetarians and lowest among strict vegetarians. Obesity rates were also highest among meat eaters, with 33.3 percent of non-vegetarians classified as obese. Rates of obesity were significantly lower for semi-vegetarians (24.2 percent), pesco-vegetarians (17.9 percent), lacto-ovo vegetarians (16.7 percent), and strict vegetarians (9.4 percent). The findings were scheduled for publication in the December 2013 edition of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“There was a clear association between higher proportions of obesity, higher BMI averages, and dietary patterns characterized by progressively higher intakes of meat and dairy products,” notes Nico Rizzo, PhD, first author of the study and assistant professor at LLU School of Public Health.
The second study, Walnuts and Healthy Aging, evaluates walnut consumption and brain, eye, and cognitive function among older adults.
Directed by Joan Sabaté, MD, DrPH, chair of nutrition at LLU School of Public Health, the walnut study seeks volunteer participants between 63 and 79 years of age who are in reasonably good health and able to travel to Loma Linda once every two months.
Dr. Sabaté became interested in nuts after the Adventist Health Studies found that nuts and whole grains appear to have protective health benefits.
“After studying nuts and heart disease, we thought we would study nuts and the brain,” he noted. “It’s worth studying because as our population ages, the percentage of people who develop memory and cognitive issues is increasing.”
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