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A 2008 Vegetarianism in America report found that roughly 3.2 percent of the United States population practice a vegetarian diet. That percentage translates to about 7.3 million Americans making the decision to abstain from eating meat. Some make the decision to become a vegetarian because they are opposed to the methods used to slaughter animals, while others base their decision on the health benefits of becoming a vegetarian.
Decreases Risk of Cancer
A British study published in 2009 found that vegetarians are 12 percent less likely to get cancer than non-vegetarians. The study also reported that vegetarians were up to 45 percent less likely to get leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma than meat-eaters. The study followed 61,000 people for 12 years; half of the participants were vegetarians. The World Cancer Research Fund has recommended eating a diet rich in plants, vegetables, fruits and beans while limiting meats that have been grilled, cured or smoked.
Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study in 2005 that demonstrated a relationship between eating meat and heart problems. The report found that participants who ate the largest quantities of meat had the highest risk of heart disease. The report also found that consumption of protein from vegetables such as nuts and beans actually lowers the risk of heart disease. One core reason vegetarians are less likely to have cardiovascular disease, according to experts, is because meat contains animal fat that contributes to higher cholesterol.
A study of 1,904 vegetarians conducted by the German Cancer Research Center over the span of 21 years found that vegetarians have a significantly reduced chance of early death. Men who abstained from eating mean lowered their risk of early death by 50 percent, while women vegetarians reduced their risk by 30 percent. One reason vegetarians are found to live longer than meat-eaters is that their diet decreases the risk of heart disease, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.