Doesn't sound strange to a non-vegetarian doctor

Vegetarians who eat dead animals

In the tabloid media such as "Bild", "Heute" and "Austria", in the "Kurier", but also in quality papers such as the "Salzburger Nachrichten", headlines and headlines such as "Vegetarians go to the doctor more often" or "Have vegetarians" have appeared in the last few days more often cancer "to read. According to an Ifes study from 2013, 760,000 people in Austria live without meat, i.e. vegetarian.

A good 80,000 of them are vegan, so eat purely plant-based. So this would be news with a certain explosiveness. Perhaps more interesting than the actual report, however, is the story of how the work of a researcher who came to the conclusion that a vegetarian diet is the healthiest, led to newspaper reports to the contrary.

An unfortunate combination of various circumstances

The Graz researcher Nathalie Burkert analyzes data from the Austrian health survey 2006/07. This health survey is a collection of responses (self-assessment) from people on health issues. Approx. 15,000 people are interviewed, including 0.2 percent vegans, 0.8 percent vegetarians and 1.2 percent fish eaters. In the Graz study, they are summarized as 2.2 percent vegetarians. The fact that vegetarians do not eat dead animals (including fish) is apparently just a minor detail.

At the same time, she is carrying out a second study with the same raw data from a larger population (Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift, February 2014, Volume 126, Issue 3-4, pp 113-118) and comes to the conclusion that the vegetarian diet as well as a fruit and high-vegetables fare best. She also recommends health promotion programs to reduce meat consumption.

The university's press service publishes the data from the first study in a striking form. A certain Mr Knop makes a second polemical press release that many (including German media) reproduce. Result: "Vegetarians are sicker and have cancer more often".

Reaction of the researcher

In an interview with Die Welt, the researcher clearly stated that she found the press release incorrect in this form because it reproduced the results incorrectly. In the original study (page 7), she admits that this conclusion should not be drawn because the causalities have not been clarified. Are vegetarians sick more often or do people switch to a vegetarian diet because of their illness?

Much speaks in favor of the latter, as doctors often recommend avoiding red meat in the event of cancer or heart attacks. This would also explain the high proportion of fish eaters among the veggies. Nevertheless: The newspaper duck goes its way. It almost seems as if everyone is happy that vegetarian is not healthier after all.

And now?

The fact is that we in Austria eat more than twice as much meat as the ÖGE recommends. The world's largest nutrition organization, the American Dietetic Association (ADA), and the Graz researcher recommend reducing meat consumption and rate the meat-free diet as positive. Thousands of people die every year from heart attacks, cancer and strokes because they were not vegetarian.

One can only hope that the reports of the last few days do not help to calm the conscience, while meat is being consumed at four euros per kilo. Vegetarian would be unhealthy ... (Reader's comment, Felix Hnat, derStandard.at, 3.3.2014)