Vegetarians and people who include only a small amount of meat in their diet could live “significantly longer” than the general population, according to new research.

A team of researchers from the Centre of Cancer Research in Germany have suggested that eating a balanced vegetarian diet could reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease, and also help to cut cholesterol levels and the chances of suffering from kidney and gall stones, diet-related diabetes and high blood pressure, reports BBC Online.

Between 1978 and 1999, the researchers studied almost 2,000 people aged between ten and 70 who ate little or no meat. Across the group there was an average of 59 deaths for every 100 deaths in that age range in the general population in that time period.

Total abstinence from meat eating was not, however, the healthiest diet. The study found that for every 100 deaths among vegans, there were 66 among vegetarians, and only 60 among occasional meat eaters.