A number of studies show that vegetarians have lower blood levels of cholesterol than people who eat meat. Research from the American Health Foundation in New York found that lacto-ovo vegetarians had blood cholesterol levels that were 14% lower than those of omnivores, and vegans had levels that were 35% lower than those of omnivores. Although leaner people tend to have lower blood cholesterol levels, and vegetarians as a group are more slender than meat eaters, differences in body weight don't seem to explain the reduced cholesterol levels seen in vegetarians. In fact, in one study, vegetarians had lower blood cholesterol even when they were heavier than the meat-eaters to whom they were compared.
One major explanation for the lower blood cholesterol levels in vegetarians is the lower saturated fat content of vegetarian diets. (Vegetarian diets are also lower in cholesterol, but this plays only a minor role.) Vegan diets are even lower in saturated fat than lacto-ovo vegetarian diets. Vegetarians consume less saturated fat because their diets are based on whole plant foods that are naturally lower in total and saturated fat and also include higher fat foods, like nuts, that contain more unsaturated fats. Other factors that play a contributing role may help to explain differences in blood cholesterol levels, though.
Vegetarians consume two to three times as much fiber as omnivores and many consume large quantities of soyfoods.
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