The paper, published in the BMJ, found only a small increase in the risk of stroke, while confirming findings in other studies that vegetarians and vegans lower risk of stroke or heart disease than meat-eaters.
Tammy Tong, a nutritional epidemiologist in the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, says “Vegans lower risk of stroke or heart disease does seem to outweigh the higher risk of stroke.” Since stroke is a much rarer event than heart disease, the lower risk of heart disease may actually be the more impactful finding, Tong says.
Based on their data, the researchers estimate that vegetarian diets—compared to those that include meat—are associated with 10 fewer cases of heart disease per 1,000 people over 10 years, and three more strokes in the same population.
Still, Tong emphasizes that no one should drastically change their habits based on the results of one observational study using self-reported dietary information, which by nature can only uncover trends, not prove cause and effect.