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Vegetarian diet provides good nutrition, health benefits, study finds

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A vegetarian diet provides adequate nutrition to adults and children and can also reduce health problems, an Australian study has found.

The scientific research review, "Is a vegetarian diet adequate?" published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday, puts to rest the long-held belief a vegetarian diet lacks sufficient protein and iron, The Advertiser reported.

The study found those who adopted a vegetarian diet are receiving adequate levels of protein, iron and zinc, and are less likely to suffer from heart disease, colorectal cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton said there were no significant health differences in babies born to vegetarian mothers and no noticeable differences in the growth of vegetarian children compared to children who consumed meat as part of their diet.

Although vegetarians who do not eat fish may be receiving less Omega 3 fatty acids than considered desirable, vegetarians do not exhibit signs of clinical deficiency.

Deficiencies in vitamin B12 were noted in vegans -- vegetarians who shun any animal based product including milk and eggs -- and as B12 is required to help make red blood cells and to keep nerves functioning, the study recommends they either take a daily supplement or eat more B12-fortified foods.

Stanton said the average meat-eating Australian consumes significantly more protein than required, and the study almost certainly proves it is not necessary to eat meat daily.

"Not everyone needs or wants to become vegetarian, but eating more plant-based meals is a good recipe for our own health and that of the planet," Stanton said.

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