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Following a vegan diet won’t have any ramifications on your premiums — but the health implications may.
Published November 7, 2019
TABLE OF CONTENTS
An important part of the life insurance application is the medical exam, where insurers take a closer look at your health to decide what type of life insurance classification you should receive. Whether you’ve been (bravely) resisting cheese boards for health or ethical reasons, your diet can actually affect how much you spend on your life insurance premiums.
A properly implemented vegan diet can improve overall health and lower the cost of life insurance premiums
A vegan diet doesn't guarantee a high life insurance classification rating
An unhealthy vegan diet can increase the risk of illness and hike up life insurance costs
There aren’t any life insurance companies that offer lower rates to applicants following a vegan diet. What they do offer are better rates for applicants in good health. Although other factors come into play, if you are eating a plant-based and nutrient-dense diet, you may score some health benefits that can get you a better life insurance classification. Check out how your health classification affects how much you pay for your life insurance premiums:
Based on a 20-year, $500K insurance policy in California for a 30-year-old, male nonsmoker.
|HEALTH CLASSIFICATION||LOWEST PREMIUM|
Part of applying for life insurance is disclosing your medical history, and if you’ve had a heart condition, underwriters will take this into account when determining the rates you’re offered. You’ll need to disclose any previous heart attacks and recovery, as well as what you are doing to manage your health. (You won’t want to lie about this because if they find out, they can cancel your plan and deny your beneficiary a payout.) How does a vegan diet affect heart health? A balanced plant-based diet that consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and oils minimizes the chances of a heart attack by controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels. Even testing amongst groups that have only removed meat products from their diet has shown a decrease of 29% in deaths from heart disease. Moderating the intake of animal products can also help control diabetes; people with diabetes are 2-4 times likelier to get cardiovascular disease than the general population.
When underwriters are determining your risk of mortality during a life insurance application, a disease like diabetes will play a role in determining how long they think you’ll live.
If you eat a mostly plant-based diet, you decrease your chances of getting diabetes and therefore incurring a high premium. Replacing your daily consumption of meat products, such as cold cuts, with healthy plant-based foods, can reduce your risk of diabetes by 34%. Meatless diets tend to control insulin levels, which in turn may protect you against diabetes. Instances of diabetes lead to a higher life insurance rating.
If you already have diabetes, you’re not totally disqualified from receiving competitive rates. Demonstrating that you are implementing a vegan diet to treat and control the disease during your paramedical exam can help you secure a better life insurance premium rate.
Utilizing a plant-based diet to control diabetes can have a broader impact on overall health. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and other infections, all of which can increase the cost of your life insurance policy or make you ineligible to even purchase one.
When you’re going through the application process for your life insurance policy, a medical exam will look into your weight and determine if you have a healthy height to weight ratio.
The sample rates below show how body mass index can affect life insurance rates:
$250,000/10-year policy for 30-year-old 5’10” male
|CLASSIFICATION||WEIGHT (POUNDS)||PREMIUM (MONTHLY/ANNUAL)|
|Standard Plus Non-Tobacco||224||$16.35/$189|
|Preferred Non Tobacco||210||$13.54/$156.50|
|Preferred Plus Non-Tobacco||200||$10.51/$121.50|
$250,000/10-year policy for 30-year-old 5’6” female
|CLASSIFICATION||WEIGHT (POUNDS)||PREMIUM (MONTHLY/ANNUAL)|
|Standard Plus Non Tobacco||195||$15.05/$174|
|Preferred Non Tobacco||185||$11.59/$134|
|Preferred Plus Non Tobacco||175||$10.29/$119|
A vegan diet where plant-protein substitutes red meat lowers body mass index and the probability of obesity. The healthier your height to weight ratio is, the cheaper your life insurance rates will be.
In a study conducted by the CUNY School of Public Health in New York, researchers found that even people who were sedentary but ate a plant-based diet consisting of raw foods replicated “endurance exercisers” in health. They found that participants had an ideal body mass index, good heart health, and low blood pressure.
Blood pressure is a crucial indicator of health on a life insurance medical exam; high blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke, classifying it as a mortality risk to an underwriter and leading to higher life insurance rates.
Because diets without meat and completely vegan diets can control blood pressure, you could see an improved health classification when you’re applying for life insurance.
It’s not all doom and gloom if you already have high blood pressure. The condition can be managed by changes to your lifestyle and if you demonstrate to the medical examiner that you are adjusting your eating habits to treat the condition, that will be taken into account when determining your life insurance classification.
Here’s what the medical examiner may ask to measure if you are taking steps to manage your blood pressure:
A cancer diagnosis can have a big impact on your plans to purchase a life insurance policy. While undergoing treatment, you may not be eligible to purchase a life insurance policy at all. Once you’ve recovered, insurers will look at your cancer history to determine what type of life insurance you are eligible for.
Recent research shows that a vegan diet may decrease the odds of being diagnosed with cancer. The 2016 study by the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition found that individuals who eat a vegan diet were 15% less likely to incur any type of cancer, while the World Health Organization has declared processed and red meat as probable carcinogens, or foods that might cause cancer, for humans.
There are many variables that can increase cancer risk, and unfortunately, some of them are beyond our control. The influence of diet, however, is attributed to 30% of cancer diagnoses in industrialized countries and is something you can regulate.
You want to protect yourself against Alzheimer’s for obvious reasons, but a critical diagnosis can inflate life insurance premium rates by 90-95%.
A plant-based diet that incorporates leafy green vegetables and fruits like berries is associated with reducing the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease, even amongst those with a predisposition. Even if you aren’t susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s, poor eating habits can cause high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, which increase the possibility of developing dementia.
Swapping out your daily animal protein for a plant-based food lowers the risk of disease and could help extend your life. Since the underwriting process is essentially gauging when you are going to die, increasing your longevity could help improve your rates.
You can go on a Taco Bell run and still eat a completely vegan meal — that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Reaping the benefits of a vegan diet means making healthy choices. A plant-based and nutrient-dense vegan diet is going to have a positive impact on health, but vegan foods full of saturated fats and added sugars are going to contribute to conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Eating a plant-based vegan diet doesn’t counteract other lifestyle choices, family history, or medical history either. There are some conditions that you’re genetically more likely to develop.
As Patrick Hanzel, Policygenius’ Advanced Planning Specialist and Certified Financial Planner explains, "As far as simply being vegan directly impacting your life insurance rates, that will not have a direct correlation. No matter what you eat, the carriers will still look at medical history along with the results from your exam. Someone who is vegan can still have a high BMI, an unfavorable personal/family medical history, or have levels out of normal range from the medical exam."
Other factors that affect your health classification:
While veganism doesn’t completely eliminate the probability of falling ill, integrating healthy foods into your diet can lower your risk and increase the chances you’ll receive a competitive life insurance quote.
A poorly constructed vegan diet may cause some vitamin deficiencies that could hurt your health and do the exact opposite of what you intended.
Many vegan diets don’t contain enough B12, a severe deficiency of which can lead to irreversible nerve damage as well as neurological and psychiatric conditions.
Other vitamin deficiencies that can occur from a vegan diet are iron, calcium, fatty acids, and vitamin D, each with their own health implications. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia while a vitamin D deficiency can be a precursor to cancer, heart disease, and depression.
A vitamin deficiency itself won’t negatively impact the rate you are offered for a life insurance policy, but the impacts on your health from a severe deficiency can make you subject to extremely high rates. If you’re following a vegan diet, make sure to incorporate fortified foods or supplements into your regimen so that you don’t experience any adverse effects.
Benefiting from the health benefits of a vegan diet involves planning ahead and understanding the nutritional implications of the food you are consuming. You should prioritize eating a diverse range of nutrient-dense, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains while reducing your intake of animal products, non-essential fats, and processed foods.
A vegan diet that is high in non-essential fats, salt, sugar, and sodium is equally as largely ineffective in managing your health. Whether or not you introduce a completely vegan diet into your life, simply reducing your consumption of red meat and incorporating more plant-based meals can reduce your risk of diabetes, heart attack, and other diseases, as well as how much you will pay for life insurance.
Nupur Gambhir is a life insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has researched and written extensively about life insurance since 2019, with specialties in life insurance companies, policy types, and end-of-life planning. Her writing on insurance and finance has appeared on MSN, The Financial Gym, and end-of-life planning service Cake. Previously, she worked in marketing and business development for travel and tech.
Nupur has a B.A. in Economics from Ohio State University.
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