Does the Vegan Diet Extend Your Lifespan?
Thus, many people wonder whether alternative diets, such as the vegan diet, help people live longer, healthier lives. In fact, you may have heard claims that vegans have a longer lifespan than omnivores.
However, its effects on longevity are much more nuanced.
This article explains whether vegans live longer than non-vegans.
Some Vegans May Live Longer
Research examining the link between plant-based diets and longevity has produced mixed results.
One large review of vegans and vegetarians in the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, and Japan suggests that they have a 9% lower risk of death from all causes, compared with omnivores.
Another study examined Seventh Day Adventists in North America. The Seventh Day Adventist diet is typically plant-based, rich in whole foods, and free of alcohol and caffeine — although some may incorporate small amounts of eggs, dairy, or meat.
The study suggested that vegetarians and vegans may benefit from a 12% lower risk of death, compared with people who eat meat.
When separated from the rest, vegans had a 15% lower risk of dying prematurely from all causes, indicating that a vegan diet may indeed help people live longer than those who adhere to vegetarian or omnivorous eating patterns.
However, other studies in vegetarians in the United Kingdom and Australia report that they're no more likely to live longer than non-vegetarians.
Thus, there's no definitive link between veganism and lifespan.
Furthermore, most studies group vegetarians and vegans together, making it difficult to determine the exact effects of each diet on a person's life expectancy. Therefore, more research is needed solely on vegan diets before strong conclusions can be made.
Some scientific reviews suggest that vegetarian and vegan diets may help people live longer, but these findings aren't universal. As such, more comprehensive studies are necessary.
Why Do Some Vegans Live Longer?
Researchers theorize that vegans who live longer than average tend to do so for two main reasons involving both diet and lifestyle.
Vegan Diets Are Often Rich in Nutritious Compounds
Veganism eliminates all animal-based foods, including meat, dairy, eggs, and products derived from them. This usually results in a diet that's rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Research suggests that diets loaded with these plant foods may help people live longer. The same can be said about diets low in red and processed meats.
Moreover, vegan diets tend to pack plenty of fiber, plant protein, and antioxidants.
Diets rich in these nutrients are believed to safeguard against obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease — which could promote increased life expectancy.
Vegans Tend to Have Healthier Lifestyles
As a group, vegans may be more likely to pursue a health-conscious lifestyle compared with the general population.
For instance, research shows that vegans may be less likely to smoke or drink alcohol. They also appear more likely to maintain a normal body mass index (BMI), exercise regularly, and avoid overly processed junk foods.
Experts believe that this increased health consciousness may help explain why some vegans live longer than non-vegans.
Vegan diets tend to be rich in nutrients that may protect against illnesses and boost your lifespan. Many people who follow this eating pattern also make lifestyle choices, such as exercising regularly and avoiding processed foods, that may aid longevity.
Not All Vegans Live Longer
It's important to remember that not all vegan diets are rich in nutrients. In fact, some vegans may rely heavily on sugary, processed foods — which could negatively affect longevity.
Notably, studies that rate plant-based diets based on their relative amounts of processed versus nutritious foods suggest that only robust, well-planned plant-based diets are linked to an extended lifespan and lower risk of disease.
A healthy vegan diet is typically defined as one that's rich in minimally processed plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, with very few processed junk foods.
Meanwhile, a poorly planned vegan diet may rely heavily on sweets, processed items, and other foods that are technically vegan but very poor in nutrients.
For instance, one study claims that plant-based diets as a whole may lower your risk of dying from heart disease by 8%. However, nutritious plant-based diets lower this risk by 25% — while unhealthy ones increase it by 32%.
Another suggests that improving the quality of a plant-based diet over 12-years may reduce the likelihood of dying prematurely by 10%. Conversely, reducing its quality over the same period may result in a 12% higher risk of premature death.
This may explain why a recent review found that while vegetarians are more likely to live longer than the general population, their life expectancy is no higher than that of similarly health-conscious meat eaters.
However, few studies directly compare the effects of healthy or unhealthy vegan diets to healthy or unhealthy omnivorous ones. Overall, more research is needed.
SUMMARYPoorly planned vegan diets likely don't offer the same health benefits as nutritious versions of the diet. Nutrient-poor vegan diets may even lower your life expectancy.
The Bottom Line
Vegan diets are linked to numerous health benefits, including a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease. Some evidence indicates that they may also help you live longer.
Yet, like most diets, vegan diets vary in quality. This may partly explain why vegans don't always outlive non-vegans.
If you're vegan and looking to maximize any longevity-promoting effects, replace processed foods in your diet with whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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