I’m sure today’s conversation will grab its fair share of attention. And once you get a load of this headline, you’ll understand why I wanted to get a jump on it:
Vegetarians Have Better Cholesterol Levels, and More, Than Meat-Eaters
It’s a bold claim—one that’s certain to get a whole lot of uninformed press.
So, let’s read between the lines and take a closer look…
Breaking down the good… and the bad
This ridiculous headline stems from the results of a recent observational study (one of the worst types of studies to rely on for definitive conclusions, mind you).
The researchers looked at 19 different biomarkers connected to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and liver and kidney function. Among the findings: Vegetarians had better heart health biomarkers—including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and apolipoprotein A and B—when compared to meat-eaters.
Most notably, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were 21 percent and 16.4 percent lower, respectively, among vegetarians. C-reactive protein—an inflammation marker—was ten percent lower. And levels of key liver and kidney markers were lower, too.
But—these dazzling headlines fail to acknowledge that vegetarians also had a handful of biomarkers that were worse, compared to meat-eaters. And these biomarkers are every bit as important.
For one thing, vegetarians had lower levels of lifesaving vitamin D—by a whopping 635 percent. They also have lower levels of healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, by five percent.
In addition, vegetarians also had significantly higher levels of unhealthy biomarkers, like triglycerides and cystatin-C (a measure of your kidney function).
Needless to say, the full story certainly doesn’t support that picture-perfect headline.
Meatless doesn’t mean healthy
As you know, I rely heavily on bloodwork with my patients. I love all the nuances it can reveal about things going on in our bodies that we may never have known about otherwise.
But like I’m always telling you, health is complex. And at the end of the day, these biomarkers only tell you part of the story.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Just because someone doesn’t eat meat doesn’t mean they’re eating a healthy diet.
I can’t tell you how many vegetarians and vegans I see and know who eat nothing but carbs and sweets. (They’re what I refer to as “carbotarians.”) And guess what? While those foods may technically be “plant-based,” they’re overly-processed… and are anything but healthy.
Nevertheless, this study’s big “observational” conclusion that vegetarianism is better for you based on lower cholesterol and other “cardiac” markers? Well, it’s just plain WRONG.
You simply can’t make a leap that big from an observational study. Particularly with so many missing details. And that’s where I really want to set the record straight, here.
So stay tuned for tomorrow, when I’ll talk a little bit more about exactly what this study left out to reach it’s sparkly conclusion.
“Vegetarians Have Better Cholesterol Levels, and More, Than Meat-Eaters.” Medscape Medical News, 05/11/2021. (medscape.com/viewarticle/950911)