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Sharpen your knives...

Todd Allen

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Our study has shown 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. Therefore, a continued strong public health program for Austria is required in order to reduce the health risk due to nutritional factors.

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While 0.2% of the interviewees were pure vegetarians (57.7% female), 0.8% reported to be vegetarians consuming milk and eggs (77.3% female), and 1.2% to be vegetarians consuming fish and/or eggs and milk (76.7% female). 23.6% reported to combine a carnivorous diet with lots of fruits and vegetables (67.2% female),48.5% to eat a carnivorous diet less rich in meat (60.8% female),and 25.7% a carnivorous diet rich in meat (30.1% female). Since the three vegetarian diet groups included a rather small number of persons (N = 343), they were analyzed as one dietary habit group. Moreover, since the vegetarian group was the smallest, we decided to match each of the vegetarians (1) with an individual of each other dietary habit group (carnivorous diet rich in fruits and vegetables (2), carnivorous diet less rich in meat (3) and a carnivorous rich in meat (4).


Very few vegetarian interviewees.   It would have been interesting to see how a vegetarian diet rich in fruit and vegetables fared, but alas, no such group was included- probably too few such vegetarians exist there in any case.  


In terms of cancer and number of doctors visits, the carnivorous diet rich in fruits and vegetable didn't score well at all.

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I was expecting someone to cut this study to shreds which probably doesn't even require a sharpened knife.  The vegan cohort was miniscule and lumped in with the vegetarians.  None of the categories were explicitly defined and people self assigned.  They didn't take into consideration why people chose their diets such as for weight loss or other medical condition, for ethical, financial or other factors.  They didn't look at diet quality.  I don't think they looked at age.  Personally I think it is no more than interesting statistics but trying to see meaning in such statistics is fraught with danger.  Even if the sample size was huge and it indicated that across all ages, professions and every other variable that most meat eaters were healthier than vegetarians as individuals each of us should primarily be concerned with what works best for ourselves.

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Todd, my previous absurd answer was related to the appearent absurdity of the Austrian study. Some of the absurdities have already been pointed out, 343 vegetarians among 15474 interviewees, but those 343 were not all vegetarians, the majority ate fish as well, soem others were realy lacto-ovo vegetarians and a minority were vegan.


They grouped all together. The other individuals were grouped in much larger cohorts according to the qualitative amount of meat eaten. In the article it's told that the amount of meat has been taken as a measure of the amount of saturated fats, but we all know cheese and dairy products are a major source of SAFAs as well.


The absurd conclusion from teh absurd premise is that it's helthier to eat mostly meat.


That goes so much against the conventional wisdom that woudl require an extremely robust statistics, whereas to begin with the unbalance in the sample is huge. Vegans and real vegetarian are so underrepresented to jeopardize a statistical treatment from the inception.


I was in Austria 30 years ago and they told me that I would have had some problems bein vegetarian since meat courses are the staple. It may even be that there is a reverse causation, that is, many people with health problems resort to vegetarianism or more plant based food.


Anyway, like the obesity paradox, this is stuff which seems to have been produced just to publish something. Also, were I in the place of the authors, after a lot of hard work, what would I do? I'd try and have the article published just the same.


The obesity paradox is another apparently absurd concept we have discussed in other threads. The conventional wisdom, supported by an overwhelming amount of literature, is that obesity increases the likelihood of many disorders, with increase in death ratio. Now they say it's the opposite, displaying survival curves.


What they don't do is explain what's the novel mechanism which seems to work against the detrimental effects highlighted so far by literature.


Results of statistical analysis to me are nothing if they're not backed up by absolute credibility plus reliability and mechanistic reasonable explanations of the results.

Here we are loosing the forrest for the classic trees.


Even metanalyses may be custom-tailored to serve some purposes: 


October 17, 2017
JAMA. 2017;318(15):1435-1436. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.12083
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