Vegetarians appear to have a healthier biomarker profile than meat eaters, and this applies to adults of all ages and weight, and is also unaffected by smoking and alcohol consumption, according to a news report. study of over 166,000 UK adults, presented this week. European Congress on Obesity (ECO), held online this year.
Biomarkers can have bad and good health effects, promoting or preventing cancer, cardiovascular and age-related diseases, and other chronic conditions, and have been widely used to assess the effect of diets. about health. However, the evidence for the metabolic benefits associated with being a vegetarian is unclear.
To understand whether food choice can make a difference to the levels of disease markers in the blood and urine, researchers at the University of Glasgow conducted a cross-sectional study analyzing data from 177,723 healthy participants ( aged 37 to 73) in the UK Biobank study. , who has not reported any major diet changes in the past five years.
Participants were classified as vegetarians (did not eat red meat, poultry, or fish; 4,111 participants) or as meat eaters (166,516 participants) based on their self-reported diet. The researchers looked at the association with 19 blood and urine biomarkers linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver, bone and joint health, and kidney function.
Even after taking into account potentially influencing factors such as age, gender, education, ethnicity, obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption, the analysis found that compared to eaters meat, vegetarians had significantly lower levels of 13 biomarkers, including: total cholesterol; low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – the so-called “bad cholesterol”; apolipoprotein A (linked to cardiovascular disease), apolipoprotein B (linked to cardiovascular disease); gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) and alanine aminotransferase (AST) – markers of liver function indicating inflammation or cell damage; insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1; a hormone that promotes the growth and proliferation of cancer cells); urate; total protein; and creatinine (a marker of worsening kidney function).
However, vegetarians also had lower levels of beneficial biomarkers, including “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and vitamin D and calcium (linked to bone and joint health). In addition, they had significantly higher levels of fat (triglycerides) in the blood and cystatin-C (which suggests kidney damage).
No association was found for blood sugar (HbA1c), systolic blood pressure, aspartate aminotransferase (AST; a marker of liver cell damage) or C-reactive protein (CRP; inflammatory marker).
“Our results offer real food for thought,” says Dr Carlos Celis-Morales of the University of Glasgow, UK, who led the research. “In addition to not eating red and processed meats which have been linked to heart disease and certain cancers, people who follow a vegetarian diet tend to consume more vegetables, fruits and nuts which contain more nutrients. , fiber and other potentially beneficial compounds. These nutritional differences may help explain why vegetarians seem to have lower levels of disease biomarkers that can lead to cell damage and chronic disease. “
The authors point out that although their study was large, it was observational, so no conclusions can be drawn about direct causes and effects. They also note several limitations, including the fact that they only tested biomarker samples once for each participant, and it is possible that biomarkers fluctuate based on factors unrelated to diet, such as existing diseases and unmeasured lifestyle factors. They also note that they depended on participants to report their food intake using food frequency questionnaires, which is not always reliable.