LOMA LINDA, CALIFORNIA, October 4, 2013 (Digital Journal): Despite similar caloric intake, vegetarians tend to have lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than non-vegetarians, with vegans being the most slender of all, suggests new research on more than 70,000 Seventh-day Adventists by researchers from Loma Linda University Health to be published in the December edition of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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 eggs), 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.
"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.