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10-3-13 Vegetarians tend to be slimmer than meat eaters, says study from Loma Linda University Health
In strict vegetarians, low dietary intakes of vitamin B-12 and D, calcium, and n-3 fatty acids, in addition to iron and zinc, have often been of concern. However, in the present study, mean intakes of these nutrients were above minimum requirements in strict vegetarians.
A cross-sectional study of the subjects from the Adventist Health Study 2, possibly the largest study involving vegetarians, compared the subjects’ five dietary patterns: non-vegetarians (meat eaters), semi-vegetarians (occasional meat eaters), pesco-vegetarians (people who consume fish), lacto-ovo vegetarians (people who consume dairy products), and vegans (strict vegetarians).
The results show the average BMI was highest in non-vegetarians and lowest in strict vegetarians, with higher BMI levels for those who consume more animal-derived foods. Non-vegetarians had the most number of people who are classified as obese, with 33.3 percent having BMIs of over 30; semi-vegetarians, 24.2 percent; pesco-vegetarians, 17.9 percent; lacto-ovo vegetarians, 16.7 percent; and strict vegetarians, 9.4 percent.
The subjects had similar energy intake of close to 2,000 kcal per day, except for semi-vegetarians, who had an intake of 1,707 kcal per day. The results were adjusted for age, race, sex, and physical activity.
The study tried to determine variations in nutrient intakes between vegetarian and non-vegetarian dietary patterns, in hopes of determining if those differences can contribute to the prevention or development of disease.
The findings showed that nutrient intakes varied significantly between dietary patterns. Non-vegetarians have the lowest intake of plant proteins, fiber, beta carotene, and magnesium, compared with those following vegetarian dietary patterns; and the highest intakes of fatty acids associated with coronary heart disease.
“There was a clear association between higher proportions of obesity, higher BMI averages, and dietary patterns characterized by progressively higher intakes of meat and dairy products,” said the study’s first author, Nico Rizzo, Med. Dr., Ph.D., assistant professor at the Department of Nutrition at Loma Linda University School of Public Health.
“These marked differences in BMI are of particular interest given that total energy intakes were similar between dietary patterns, and mean macronutrient composition and micronutrient intakes were markedly different between the dietary patterns,” he said.
He said a thorough description of nutrient profiles and the findings will serve as a point of reference for future studies that will look at possible associations between dietary patterns and health outcomes.
About Loma Linda University Health (LLUH)
Loma Linda University Health includes Loma Linda University's eight professional schools, Loma Linda University Medical Center's six hospitals and more than 900 faculty physicians located in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Established in 1905, LLUH is a global leader in education, research and clinical care. It offers over 100 academic programs and provides quality health care to 40,000 inpatients and 1.5 million outpatients each year. A Seventh-day Adventist organization, LLUH is a faith-based health system with a mission "to continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ."