Study: Vegetarian diet tied to fewer deaths over time

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People who limit how much meat they eat and stick to mostly fruits and vegetables are less likely to die over any particular period of time, according to a new study.

"I think this adds to the evidence showing the possible beneficial effect of vegetarian diets in the prevention of chronic diseases and the improvement of longevity," said Dr. Michael Orlich, the study's lead author from Loma Linda University in California.

In 2012, a Gallup poll found about 5 percent of Americans reported to be vegetarians.

Previous research has found that people who eat mostly fruits and vegetables are less likely to die of heart disease or any other cause over certain periods of time.

Another study from Europe, however, found British vegetarians were just as likely to die at any point as meat eaters, so it's still an "open question," Orlich said.

For the new study, he and his colleagues used data from 73,308 people recruited at U.S. and Canadian Seventh-day Adventist churches between 2002 and 2007.

At the start of the study, the participants were asked about their eating habits and were separated into categories based on how often they ate dairy, eggs, fish and meat.

Overall, 8 percent were vegans who didn't eat any animal products while 29 percent were lacto-ovo-vegetarians who didn't eat fish or meat but did eat dairy and egg products. Another 15 percent occasionally ate meat, including fish.

The researchers then used a national database to see how many of the participants died by December 31, 2009.

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