Chemistry behind Vegetarianism

J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Feb 9;59(3):777-84. doi: 10.1021/jf103846u. Epub 2011 Jan 4.


This review summarizes the effect of a habitual vegetarian diet on clinical complications in relation to chemistry and biochemistry. Omnivores have a significantly higher cluster of cardiovascular risk factors compared with vegetarians, including increased body mass index, waist to hip ratio, blood pressure, plasma total cholesterol (TC), triacylglycerol and LDL-C levels, serum lipoprotein(a) concentration, plasma factor VII activity, ratios of TC/HDL-C, LDL-C/HDL-C and TAG/HDL-C, and serum ferritin levels. Compared with omnivores, vegetarians, especially vegans, have lower serum vitamin B₁₂ concentration and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels in the tissue membrane phospholipids, which are associated with increased collagen and ADP stimulated ex vivo whole blood platelet aggregation, plasma 11-dehydrothromboxane B₂, and homocysteine levels and decreased plasma HDL-C. This may be associated with an increased thrombotic and atherosclerotic risk. It is suggested that vegetarians, especially vegans, should increase their dietary n-3 PUFA and vitamin B₁₂ intakes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Biochemical Phenomena*
  • Diet, Vegetarian* / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status
  • Nutritive Value
  • Platelet Aggregation
  • Risk Factors
  • Thrombosis
  • Vitamin B 12 / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Homocysteine
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B 12