a1 Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford OX2 6HE, UK
Compared with non-vegetarians, Western vegetarians have a lower mean BMI (by about 1 kg/m2), a lower mean plasma total cholesterol concentration (by about 0.5 mmol/l), and a lower mortality from IHD (by about 25 %). They may also have a lower risk for some other diseases such as constipation, diverticular disease, gallstones and appendicitis. No differences in mortality from common cancers have been established. There is no evidence of adverse effects on mortality. Much more information is needed, particularly on other causes of death, other morbidity including osteoporosis, and long-term health in vegans. The evidence available suggests that widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet could prevent approximately 40 000 deaths from IHD in Britain each year.