If you are an over 60-year-old vegan and live in the US, you are much less likely to use lots of medication. A study published last month in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, conducted by Hildemar Dos Santos et al., has concluded this result — which many vegans would have predicted.

The scientists from Loma Linda University studied data from 328 Californian seniors who reported in 2015-16 which diet they had and what medication they took. 57 % of the participants ate meat, followed by 21% vegetarian, 10.8% vegan, and 10.6% pescatarian. They found that a plant-based diet lowers the number of pills by 58% compared to meat-eaters (and those on a vegan diet consumed the lowest amount of medication). Curiously, there was not much difference between vegetarians and meat-eaters.

This is good news for vegans as, according to the researchers, patients who take more than five medications a day carry an 88 % higher risk of adverse drug events. The use of many medicines is known as Polypharmacy, which is fairly common in older people, especially in the US.

The authors concluded: “Our results show that eating healthy, especially a vegan diet, may be protective in leading to a reduced number of pills taken, either by preventing the development of risk factors and/or cardiovascular disease or by helping on the controlling of such conditions.”

It would have been interesting to know how long each of the vegan participants had been on a vegan diet, and whether ethical vegans and dietary vegans showed different results — on account of some reluctance to use medication for ideological reasons, perhaps. The next study could look at younger participants, and people from other countries, to see if these results can be generalized beyond the highly pharmacological US society.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.