By Lauren Sloss
Prepare to panic: your vegetarian diet is killing you! Quick, get yourself a cheeseburger, stat. It’s not too late to right the wrongs of your meatless ways.
That’s not exactly the takeaway of a (yet another) recently released study published in Nutrition and Health on how our diet affects our overall nutrition, but it’s not far off. The group analyzed responses from a 2006/2007 Austrian Health Interview Survey, and ultimately concluded that: “...a vegetarian diet is associated with poorer health (higher incidences of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), a higher need for health care, and poorer quality of life.”
Snap. Now, first things first — 2006/2007 was totally before kale took over the world, so of course vegetarians were all kinds of unhealthy. Oh wait, now kale’s bad for you, too. At any rate, the claims that this study makes aren't so dissimilar from the recent kale backlash we all lived through. You know what’s unhealthy? Excess, and lack of balance. Sure, a vegetarian diet can be very unhealthy, if that diet consists primarily of grilled cheese sandwiches and onion rings (but man, what a way to go).
And this particular study fails to distinguish between the various facets of non-meat diets. Researchers took into account, “vegetarian, carnivorous diet rich in fruits and vegetables, carnivorous diet less rich in meat, and carnivorous diet rich in meat.” Where’s the “vegetarian diet rich in fruits and vegetables” category? Or, “vegetarian diet rich in protein versus less rich in protein?” There are all kinds of way to be a vegetarian, just as there are all kinds of way to be a carnivore, omnivore, or somewhere in between.
Of course, studies like this inevitably blur the fine points; they have to in order to reach some kind of conclusion. But I’d argue that here, the generalizations are problematic enough to render their overall conclusion questionable, at best. So, go forth vegetarians. Don’t let the questionable analysis of the habits of Austrian non-meat-eaters sway you.