A balanced diet means a healthy diet. New research on the relationship between diet and health that people should begin eating a balanced diet, including meat, as early in life as possible to protect their health.

Results from “The Tufts Longitudinal Health Study” show that eating habits established during college years could accelerate the onset of the major diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. This study is reportedly the world's first that follows the behavioral and physiological profiles of college students throughout their four years.

A key finding in the research is that one-third of those studied eliminated meat from their diets. However, the study points out that eating a meat-free diet doesn’t always translate into a healthier lifestyle.

The results show that LDL (bad cholesterol) levels among non-meat eaters were no lower than for meat eaters. Elevated LDL cholesterol is a common risk factor for cardiovascular disease. What’s more, participants that ate meat were more likely to meet their Recommended Daily Allowances for vitamin B12 and protein than the vegetarians.

“Non-meat eaters may be misleading themselves into thinking that they are on a pathway to better health,” explains Christina Economos, assistant professor and research scientist at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “Many people who avoid foods that they perceive to be high in fat, such as red meat, end up overloading on carbohydrates, baked goods and high-fat dairy products, which may contribute more to weight gain and elevated cholesterol levels–both risks for heart disease.”