Vegetarian Diet and Heart Disease

Vegetarianism and Ischemic Heart Disease in Older Chinese Women

Timothy Kwok MB,ChB, Jean Woo, MD, Suzanne Ho, PhD, MPH, Aprille Sham, MBA

Department of Medicine & Therapeutics (T.K., J.W.), Department of Family & Community Medicine (S.H., A.S.), The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, CHINA E-mail:

Objective: This study compared the risk of ischemic heart disease among older vegetarian Chinese women with that of older non-vegetarian women.

Methods: 90 vegetarian Chinese women over 70 years old in Hong Kong were screened for ischemic heart disease by electrocardiogram (ECG) and cardiovascular questionnaire. They were compared with 90 non-vegetarian women of similar age examined in a previous local survey. The effects of confounding factors were adjusted by stepwise logistic regression analysis.

Results: The percentages of subjects with ischemic heart disease defined by symptoms and ECG or by ECG alone were significantly lower in vegetarian women (p<0.005 and p<0.05 respectively). Vegetarians had lower serum cholesterol levels; more were old age home residents and were less likely to perform regular exercise. On stepwise logistic regression, using probable ischemic heart disease defined by questionnaire and ECG as outcome measure, vegetarianism was the only significant predictor (OR 0.3, 95%CI 0.1- 0.6, p<0.005).

Conclusions: Vegetarian older Chinese women had lower risk of ischemic heart disease when compared with non-vegetarians. Apart from lower serum cholesterol levels, vegetarianism may have other protective factors against ischemic heart disease.

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