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Study: Vegans and vegetarians may have higher risk of stroke, lower risk of heart disease

he study, published in the British Medical Journal, found vegetarians and vegans had 10 fewer case of heart disease and three more cases of strokes per 1,000 people.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan Orange Chocolate Chip Biscotti. Diane Bondareff, Associated Press

A new study suggests vegetarians and vegans may have a lower risk of heart disease but a higher risk of strokes.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found vegetarians and vegans had 10 fewer case of heart disease and three more cases of strokes per 1,000 people compared to those who ate meat.

The study reviewed 48,118 human subjects for 18 years. Half of the participants were meat-eaters and more than 16,000 were vegetarian or vegan. A separate 7,500 were self-described pescatarian, meaning they’re cool with eating fish.

The eaters were asked about their dietary habit when they joined the study and then again in 2010. The researchers monitored their factors such as medical history, smoking and physical activity, too.

Pescatarians had a 13% lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who ate meat. Vegans had a 22% lower risk, according to the study.

But vegetarians and vegans alike had a 20% higher risk of strokes.

“In this prospective cohort in the UK, fish eaters and vegetarians had lower rates of ischaemic heart disease than meat eaters, although vegetarians had higher rates of haemorrhagic and total stroke,” according to the study’s abstract.

Researchers explained the possible reasons for such a big difference.

“The researchers suggested this could be linked to low vitamin B12 levels but said more studies were needed to investigate the connection,” according to BBC News. “It is also possible that the association may have nothing to do with people’s diets and may just reflect other differences in the lives of people who do not eat meat.”

Dr. Malcolm Finlay, consultant cardiologist at Barts Heart Centre, Queen Mary University of London said there there is some evidence that those who cut meat out of their diets may be healthier than those who keep meat in their diet, according to CNN.

But Finlay said you may want to hold back from putting “too much weight on a complex statistical method to try and correct for the fact that the vegetarians were very much healthier than meat eaters.”

”While this method can say the risk of stroke isn’t as low as one might expect it to be in vegetarians considering how much healthier they are in general compared to meat-eaters, their overall risk of a major life-changing cardiovascular event happening still appears much lower,” Finlay said, according to CNN.