Next time you're feasting on a thick, juicy steak while the person next to you is have a thin slice of quiche, and you're feeling a little guilty over it, you may want to read on, as according to a recent study you may ultimately wind up the more healthy one at the table.

The study, conducted by the Medical University of Graz in Austria, claims that vegetarians are more likely to have a poorer diet and a poorer quality of life. As if that news wasn't enough to get meat-lovers everywhere smiling, the study adds that vegetarians are also more likely to get cancer, develop allergies and suffer mental health problems.

Due to these fairly startling claims, the validity of the study is certainly under examination, as the authors claim they utilized data from the Austrian Health Interview Survey specifically looking at what effects over a period of time a vegetarian diet appears to be having on one's health compared to that of a meat-eating diet.

The researchers further explain that, in front of the data, they first characterized a vegetarian diet as one with a low consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol due to their increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grains.

Also important to note in the study is the fact this characterization of a vegetarian diet was not one where the respondent didn't eat any meat or animal products and the researchers included in this group everything from vegans to those vegetarians who also ate eggs and some white meat.

In fairness to vegetarians, before the meat eaters among us start waving the flag too aggressively, other caveats included the fact respondents to the research were all from one country (Austria), the aforementioned fact that the vegetarians surveyed in some of the groups did eat some meat and the vagueness of exactly how researchers assessed quality of life and other health variables that factored into the findings.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that Americans eat an average of 52.3 pounds of beef, 57.4 pounds of chicken, and 43.5 pounds of pork, per person, a year. The USDA also estimates that vegetarians make up roughly 5% of the U.S. population. While the USDA includes meat as part of a balanced diet, it also states that a vegetarian diet can meet "the recommended dietary allowances for nutrients."

The entire study is available online as a PDF and was published in the peer reviewed, open access medical journal PLOS.

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