People who eat a vegetarian diet live longer than those who eat meat, according to research published this week.
Researchers from Loma Linda University in California followed 73,308 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which encourages a vegetarian diet, for almost six years. There were 12 percent fewer deaths among vegetarians over that period compared to meat-eaters, the researchers reported in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
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Other studies have pointed toward similar connections, but this research analyzed a larger group of people. Specifically, researchers found that vegetarians were less likely to die from heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure.
"We can't tell from this current paper with certainty, but one of the most plausible potential reasons contributing to this beneficial association is perhaps the absence or reduction of meat intake," lead author Dr. Michael J. Orlich told TIME.
Or it could be that the consumption of certain plant foods has a protective effect, he said. Vegetarians also tend to be thinner. The total number of calories consumed in this study, however, didn't appear to be linked to living longer.