The study, conducted by researchers at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, involved 23 vegetarian and 14 non-vegetarian women. All were between the ages of 65 and 80, and all were Seventh-day Adventists (a Protestant denomination that encourages its members to be vegetarians). The good news was that the vegetarians generally ate a more healthful diet than the non-vegetarians; more carbohydrates and dietary fiber, and less fat, cholesterol and caffeine. Their diets were more in line with nutrition guidelines set by the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute, and they had lower levels of glucose and cholesterol in their blood.

But although the vegetarians had higher intakes of most vitamin and minerals compared with the non-vegetarians, a quarter of the vegetarians were low in 10 nutrients; vitamins B6, B12, D and E, folacin, pantothenic acid, zinc, calcium, copper and manganese. “Low” was defined as less than two-thirds of the nutrient’s RDA. For each of those nutrients except vitamins B12 and D, a greater percentage of the non-vegetarians also had low intakes.

Despite these low nutrient levels, the researchers did not conclude that the vegetarian women were at nutritional risk. Information on the specific dietary needs of the elderly is scare, they noted, and more research is needed to redefine the RDAs for older people. It is possible, they added, that the RDAs for several nutrients are “unrealistically high for elderly persons.” (See “The RDAs: Recommended for Whom?” in the February issue of Vegetarian Times.)

Although the elderly are sometimes advised to eat more meat for protein, vitamin B12, iron and zinc, the researchers concluded that “urging the elderly, who experience high rates of cardiovascular disease, to consume more red meat is probably not in their best interest.” – Carol Wiley

Vol 9 Issue 3 Page 2

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