Differences in nutrient profiles between vegetarian and nonvegetarian dietary patterns reflect nutritional differences that can contribute to the development of disease.
Our aim was to compare nutrient intakes between dietary patterns characterized by consumption or exclusion of meat and dairy products.
We conducted a cross-sectional study of 71,751 subjects (mean age=59 years) from the Adventist Health Study 2. Data were collected between 2002 and 2007. Participants completed a 204-item validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Dietary patterns compared were nonvegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and strict vegetarian. Analysis of covariance was used to analyze differences in nutrient intakes by dietary patterns and was adjusted for age, sex, and race. Body mass index and other relevant demographic data were reported and compared by dietary pattern using χ2 tests and analysis of variance.
Many nutrient intakes varied significantly between dietary patterns. Nonvegetarians had the lowest intakes of plant proteins, fiber, beta carotene, and magnesium compared with those following vegetarian dietary patterns, and the highest intakes of saturated, trans, arachidonic, and docosahexaenoic fatty acids. The lower tails of some nutrient distributions in strict vegetarians suggested inadequate intakes by a portion of the subjects. Energy intake was similar among dietary patterns at close to 2,000 kcal/day, with the exception of semi-vegetarians, who had an intake of 1,707 kcal/day. Mean body mass index was highest in nonvegetarians (mean=28.7 [standard deviation=6.4]) and lowest in strict vegetarians (mean=24.0 [standard deviation=4.8]).
Nutrient profiles varied markedly among dietary patterns that were defined by meat and dairy intakes. These differences are of interest in the etiology of obesity and chronic diseases.