Are vegetarians less healthy than non-vegetarians?

The controversial study has concluded that vegetarians are less healthy than meat-eaters, despite drinking less, smoking less and being more physically active than their carnivorous counterparts.  

Zee Media Bureau/Udita Madan

​New Delhi: Non-vegetarians absolutely love to poke fun and make jibes at vegetarians, regarding what they eat. Most of them just don't seem to get the concept of substituting a juicy chicken leg piece with just cottage cheese.

Many times we have also seen and heard friendly arguments about which is better – non-vegetarian items or their vegetarian counterparts? The debate is endless.

But, if a controversial study conducted by the Medical University of Graz in Austria is anything to go by, non-vegetarians may actually be right!

The controversial study has concluded that vegetarians are less healthy than meat-eaters, despite drinking less, smoking less and being more physically active than their carnivorous counterparts.

This is because, a vegetarian diet is characterised by a low consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol and contrarily, a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products. This increases the risk of cancer, allergies and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

The study concluded that Austrian adults who consume a vegetarian diet are less healthy (in terms of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), have a lower quality of life, and also require more medical treatment.

According to the Times of India, the study's authors have already defended the research against claims that their work is simply an advertisement for the meat industry.

Times of India quoted study coordinator and epidemiologist Nathalie Burkert, who told The Austrian Times, that "We have already distanced ourselves from this claim as it is an incorrect interpretation of our data.

"We did find that vegetarians suffer more from certain conditions like asthma, cancer and mental illnesses than people that eat meat as well, but we cannot say what is the cause and what is the effect.