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September 2022

Epidemiology. 1992 Sep; 3(5): 395-401.

Mortality pattern of German vegetarians after 11 years of follow-up.

Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R, Eilber U.

Department of Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg.

A cohort of 1,904 vegetarians and persons leading a health-conscious life-style in the Federal Republic of Germany was identified in 1978. After a follow-up of 11 years, mortality from all causes was reduced by one-half compared with the general population [the standardized mortality ratio (SMR) was 0.44 for men, 0.53 for women]. Among the 858 men, 111 deaths were observed, with 255 expected; among the 1,046 women, 114 deaths were observed, with 215 expected. The lowest mortality was found for cardiovascular diseases (SMR = 0.39 for men, 0.46 for women); in particular, for ischemic heart diseases, mortality was reduced to one-third of that expected. Cancer mortality was reduced by one-half in men (SMR = 0.48), but only by one-quarter in women (SMR = 0.74). The deficit in cancer deaths was mainly observed for lung cancer and gastrointestinal cancers in males and for gastrointestinal cancers in females. Deaths from diseases of the respiratory and digestive systems were also reduced by about 50%. An excess of deaths occurred only for anemia. When the strict and the moderate vegetarians were analyzed separately, the strongest differential was found for ischemic heart diseases, which were much less frequent among strict vegetarians for both sexes. Some nondietary factors, such as higher socioeconomic status, virtual absence of smoking, and lower body mass index, may also have contributed to the lower mortality of the study participants.

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