News for Meatless Monday: Vegetarians are Skinnier

skinny plant based dietphoto:

Plant based diets are correlated with lower BMI (body mass index) according to an interesting study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Data was collected from over 70,000 participants over 5 years (2002-2007) and divided people into 5 groups:

  • non-vegetarians
  • part time vegetarians
  • pescatarians (vegetarians eating fish)
  • vegetarians
  • vegans

Researchers found a statistically significant difference in the BMI of the different groups. Although each group consumed a similar amount of calories per day (about 2000 calories), only 10% of vegans and 17% of vegetarians were obese. However, 33% of the meat eaters were obese.

Most vegetarians showed high intakes of fiber, beta carotene, and magnesium compared to meat eaters. Researchers also noted that some vegetarians and vegans showed a lack of proper nutrient intake

Before we all jump to conclusions, remember that the above is a correlation, not a causation. And yet, it appears that people who make a minded decision to eat in a certain way, manage their weight (and health) more successfully.

We postulate (and it would be great to see studies on this), that once you choose a specific type of diet, you become much more aware of what goes into your body. The result is that you forgo many junk foods.

What do you think?



  • Kimmie

    Were the Meat eaters really obese? BMI is not the best indicator. Because if the meat eaters were more muscle dense, then BMI can put them in the obese category, when they have little fat on their body. So I be more interested how the body fat % and muscle density is between vegetarians and meat eaters.

    Plus I feel your picture is misleading. The picture for vegetarians so all veggies, healthy. But the meat eater one shows fries, cakes, fast food like, unhealthy. Just cause you are a Meat Eater doesn’t mean you eat like that.

    I understand you are not saying vegetarian is better than eating meat. But feel you picture misrepresents meat eaters.

  • Ashleigh Sorensen

    I feel like a vegetarian diet can be helpful if it’s done right. I know a few vegetarians who compensate for lack of meat in their diet with a lot of dairy and unhealthy grains. Same thing goes for meat eaters; it can make for a healthy diet if done right. I honestly think junk food is the biggest culprit in unhealthy diets.
    As far as the study goes, the statistics could be skewed if they didn’t have an equal number of people in each group; the more vegetarians they used, the more accurate their results. I also am curious if most of the vegetarian group came from the same region of the country; it could mean that Californians are healthier than people living in the widwest and have nothing to do with vegetarian vrs eating meat.

  • Ricardo.

    I’ve been 100% vegan for 2 years at 19 years old and it has been the best decision ever, before that I had the cholesterol of a 50-year-old man, I was extremely skinny, the typical nerdy guy. Now I’ve bulked up, I’ve gone to the gym being vegan and I have been able to develop muscle when everyone was like “Oh you need meat to bulk up”. We don’t need meat in our lives, that’s a FACT. Therefore, we’re only killing animals (And slowly, ourselves), for PERSONAL PLEASURE. That is NOT ethical. Being vegan has made me feel more energetic, I feel happier, more relaxed, with more energy, etc. Best decision ever. Oh and btw, a couple of months ago I went to do some blood test and the doctor said “I’ve never seen healthier blood. Any athlete would wish to have this exams”. GO VEGAN!

    • pmtomboy

      Good for you! Out of curiosit, since I’m active too, what’s your diet like?

  • nj

    Any skeptic should just see the trend among pro athletes lately. Cutting out meat, dairy, etc. is the swiss army solution to the majority of problems (health, env, economics).

  • Alexis

    So to sum up this article you basically said, “Let’s not jump to conclusions because there’s no evidence of causation… but here’s a conclusion anyway,” and topped it off with a fat bashing picture. Well done.

  • Kate

    What qualifies someone to be a part- time vegetarian? I don’t understand that.

    • Lesli M

      The article says: “…Semi-vegetarians might consume dairy products and/or eggs, eat some meat (red meat and poultry) one or more times per month, and the total of fish and meat one or more times per month but less than once a week….”

      • Flora R

        basically most college students that live on ramen :)

  • Lesli M

    While the study is interesting (and possibly valid) I take exception to the graphic at the top of the page. It seems disingenuous for a food/nutrition blog to propagate the myth that only meat eaters snarf cupcakes, cake, fries, chips, shakes, etc. Why not keep it real?

    • Flora R

      As a meat eater, I cannot agree more! My diet doesn’t consist of all junk food (I eat a LOT of fruit and veggies!)

  • sarah

    To each there own of course, but I find it hard to imagine that just because someone is a vegetarian they are more likely to be skinnier? What about healthier? when is being simply healthy ever going to play a factor in the world.