Austrian Vegetarians: Good News?
A study was released a couple weeks ago from Austria – a cross-sectional survey of eating habits and various health outcomes. But it has so many issues that I don’t think it’s worth commenting on except in the interest of being thorough in documenting the research on vegetarians.
Trying to infer dietary effects on health by using cross-sectional studies is always fraught with problems, but this study had even more than usual.
The diet categories included vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and pesco-vegetarian which was fine; in the final analysis all of these were grouped as “vegetarians.” The remaining diet groups were:
– carnivorous diet rich in fruits and vegetables
– carnivorous diet less rich in meat
– carnivorous diet rich in meat
This is unusual, and they didn’t define them even for the participants when they were asking them which category they belonged to.
For the health outcomes, instead of a list of diseases and incidence rates, they created a number of indicators that I would not have much confidence in. Finally, their p-values made little sense to me.
To sum up their findings, they say, “Both a vegetarian diet and a carnivorous diet rich in fruits and vegetables were related to the best self-rated health and the lowest incidence of chronic conditions. However, the quality of life was better in subjects who consume a carnivorous diet rich in meat. Nevertheless, as diets rich in fruits and vegetables were associated with better health as well as better health-related behavior, these diets should be recommended, and public health programs will be needed to reduce the health risk due to nutritional factors.”
So for what it’s worth, I suppose this is good news.
1. Burkert NT, Freidl W, Großschädel F, Muckenhuber J, Stronegger WJ, Rásky E. Nutrition and health: different forms of diet and their relationship with various health parameters among Austrian adults. Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2013 Dec 17. [Epub ahead of print] | link