06/03/2015 06:32 GMT | Updated 10/03/2015 10:59 GMT

Being A Vegetarian Could Help You Live Longer: Diet Reduces Risk Of Death From Heart Disease

Veggies could be destined for longer innings, if this new research is anything to go by.

A study has found that a diet which is 70% vegetarian can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by almost a fifth.

vegetables live longer

Scientists made the discovery after analysing the eating and lifestyle habits of 451,256 Europeans.

Death rates from heart disease were compared in participants for whom plant-based foods made up a large or small proportion of their diet.

"Pro-vegetarians" who obtained 70% of their food from plant sources were 20% less at risk than those for whom plant products made up less than 45% of their total consumption.

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Lead researcher Dr Camille Lassale, from Imperial College London's School of Public Health, said: "A pro-vegetarian diet doesn't make absolute recommendations about specific nutrients. It focuses on increasing the proportion of plant based foods relative to animal-based foods, which results in an improved nutritionally balance diet.

"Instead of drastic avoidance of animal-based foods, substituting some of the meat in your diet with plant-based sources may be a very simple, useful way to lower cardiovascular mortality. These findings are in line with the wealth of evidence on benefits of eating plant foods to prevent CVD (cardiovascular disease)."

The participants were enrolled into the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (Epic) study launched in 1992.

Scientists followed nearly half a million people aged 35 to 70 from 10 countries for an average of 12 years while obtaining information about their food consumption, lifestyle and physical activity.

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Scores were allocated to the participants based on the types of foods they ate.

Points were awarded for foods from seven plant food groups: vegetables, fruit, beans, cereals, potatoes, nuts and olive oil. Points were also subtracted for five animal food groups: meats, animal fats, eggs, fish, other seafood, and dairy products.

Based on their scores, participants were ranked from the least pro-vegetarian to the most.

The results, presented at the American Heart Association's EPI/Lifestyle meeting in Baltimore, in the United States, were adjusted to take account of influencing factors including age, gender, daily calorie intake, body mass index (BMI), smoking status, physical activity, and education.