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Vegetarian Diet May Help Reduce Risk for Metabolic Syndrome

April 11, 2011 |

A vegetarian dietary pattern is linked to a more favorable profile of metabolic risk factors and a lower risk for metabolic syndrome, even after adjustment for lifestyle and demographic factors, according to a cross-sectional analysis of results from the Adventist Health Study 2 reported online March 16 in Diabetes Care.

“The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a cluster of disorders that are associated with a heightened risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” write Nico S. Rizzo, PhD, from the Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, and colleagues. “Previous studies have reported associations between major dietary patterns and MetS. However, no agreement is found as to which dietary patterns would confer the lowest risk of MetS.”

The goal of the study was to compare dietary patterns in their associations with metabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome, using data from 773 participants in the Adventist Health Study 2. Mean age was 60 years. A food frequency questionnaire was used to classify dietary pattern as vegetarian (35%), semi-vegetarian (16%), or nonvegetarian (49%).

The investigators assessed associations between dietary pattern and metabolic risk factors, including high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, triglycerides, glucose levels, blood pressure, and waist circumference using analysis of covariance while controlling for pertinent cofactors. They also determined odds ratios (ORs) for metabolic syndrome using logistic regression.

Except for HDL cholesterol level, all metabolic risk factors were significantly lower in association with a vegetarian dietary pattern vs a nonvegetarian dietary pattern (P for trend < .001 for those factors). The risk of having metabolic syndrome was also lower for the vegetarian dietary pattern (OR, 0.44; 95% confidence interval, 0.30 – 0.64; P < .001).

“A vegetarian dietary pattern is associated with a more favorable profile of MRFs [metabolic risk factors] and a lower risk of MetS,” the study authors write. “The relationship persists after adjusting for lifestyle and demographic factors.”

Limitations of this study include cross-sectional analysis at a single point in time and reliance on self-reported questionnaires regarding dietary pattern.

“Our results thus confirm and build on previous studies on vegetarian diets and metabolic risk, and suggest that a vegetarian dietary pattern can play a favorable role in lowering the risk of MetS.”

The National Institutes of Health supported this study. Dr. Rizzo was supported by the McClean Postdoctoral Fellowship Grant. The other study authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Source:  by Laurie Barclay, MD for MedScape Medical News April 11, 2011 at

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