Two Loma Linda University
Health studies explore benefits of dietary practices long advocated on the
campus—vegetarian nutrition and nut consumption. One study has released
surprising results on a positive side effect of vegetarianism and veganism,
while the other study is poised to study the health effects of walnuts on older
first, the long-running
Adventist Health Studies, recently yielded an encouraging finding for
vegetarians. After evaluating data collected from more than 70,000 Seventh-day
Adventists in the United States and Canada, researchers announced that vegetarians
are slimmer, on average, than meat eaters.
The study found that despite
similar caloric intake, vegetarians enjoy a lower body mass index (BMI) than
meat eaters, while vegans—people who eat no animal products—are slenderest of
all. The study compared five groups: non-vegetarians (meat eaters);
semi-vegetarians (occasional meat eaters); pesco-vegetarians (people who eat
fish, but not meat); lacto-ovo vegetarians (people who consume dairy products);
and vegans (strict vegetarians).
Results reveal that the
average BMI was highest among non-vegetarians and lowest among strict
vegetarians. Obesity rates were also highest among meat eaters, with 33.3
percent of non-vegetarians classified as obese. Rates of obesity were
significantly lower for semi-vegetarians (24.2 percent), pesco-vegetarians
(17.9 percent), lacto-ovo vegetarians (16.7 percent), and strict vegetarians
(9.4 percent). The findings were scheduled for publication in the December 2013
edition of the Journal of the Academy of
Nutrition and Dietetics.
“There was a clear
association between higher proportions of obesity, higher BMI averages, and
dietary patterns characterized by progressively higher intakes of meat and
dairy products,” notes Nico Rizzo, PhD, first author of the study and assistant
professor at LLU School of Public Health.
The second study, Walnuts
and Healthy Aging, evaluates walnut consumption and brain, eye, and cognitive function
among older adults.
Directed by Joan Sabaté,
MD, DrPH, chair of nutrition at LLU School of Public Health, the walnut study seeks
volunteer participants between 63 and 79 years of age who are in reasonably
good health and able to travel to Loma Linda once every two months.
Dr. Sabaté became
interested in nuts after the Adventist Health Studies found that nuts and whole
grains appear to have protective health benefits.
“After studying nuts and
heart disease, we thought we would study nuts and the brain,” he noted. “It’s
worth studying because as our population ages, the percentage of people who
develop memory and cognitive issues is increasing.”