Weight Loss and Nutrient Status in Vegetarians and Omnivores

Relative Weight, Weight Loss Efforts and Nutrient Intakes among Health-Conscious Vegetarian, Past Vegetarian and Nonvegetarian Women Ages 18 to 50

Susan I. Barr, PhD, and Terri M. Broughton, BScD

Food, Nutrition and Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada [sibarr@interchange.ubc.ca]

Objective: To compare relative weight, weight loss efforts and nutrient intakes among similarly health-conscious vegetarian, past vegetarian and nonvegetarian premenopausal women.

Methods: Demographic data, lifestyle practices and weight loss efforts (by questionnaire), body mass index (BMI;kg/m2) and dietary intake (via multiple-pass 24-hour diet recall) were compared in a convenience sample of 90 current vegetarians, 35 past vegetarians and 68 nonvegetarians.

Results: Age (31.9 ± 8.8), educational attainment, smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity and perceived health status were similar among the three groups of women. BMI did not differ by dietary pattern and averaged 23.7 ± 4.7 for all women combined. Participants had intentionally lost >10 pounds a mean of 2.1 times, and 39% of women perceived themselves to be overweight; again, no differences were observed among dietary groups. Dietary intakes of vegetarians and current nonvegetarians were consistent with current recommendations for macronutrient composition (<30% fat, <10% saturates). Compared to current nonvegetarians, current vegetarians had lower intakes of protein, saturated fat, cholesterol, niacin, vitamins B12 and D, and higher fiber and magnesium intakes. Vegetarians’ mean vitamin B12 and D intakes were well below recommendations.

Conclusions: Relative weight and weight loss efforts do not differ by dietary pattern among similarly health-conscious vegetarian and nonvegetarian women. The only differences in nutrient intake with potential health implications were vitamins D and B12.

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