Objective: We investigated whether life-long adherence to a vegetarian diet is associated with adult height, age at menarche, adult body weight and body mass index (BMI), used as indicators of growth, development and obesity, in a large sample of adults.
Design: This was a cross-sectional study. Anthropometric data and information on age, ethnicity, education, age at menarche and age at becoming a vegetarian were obtained through a questionnaire. Self-reported height and weight were calibrated using predictive equations derived from a previous validation study.
Setting: United Kingdom.
Subjects: The study includes 45 962 British men and women aged > or = 20 years of whom 16,083 were vegetarians (not eating fish or meat).
Results: In men and women, there were no significant differences in height, weight or BMI between life-long vegetarians (n = 125 (men) and n = 265 (women)) and people who became vegetarian at age > or = 20 years (n = 3122 (men) and n = 8137 (women)). Nor was there a significant difference in age at menarche between life-long vegetarian women and women who became vegetarian at age > or = 20 years.
Conclusion: This study suggests that, compared with people who become vegetarian when adult, life-long vegetarians do not differ in adult height, weight, BMI or age at menarche in women.