Excessive oxidative stress and abnormal blood lipids may cause chronic diseases. This risk can be reduced by consuming an antioxidant- and fiber-rich vegetarian diet. We compared biomarkers of oxidative stress, antioxidant capacity, and lipid profiles of sex- and age-matched long-term vegetarians and omnivores in Korea. Forty-five vegetarians (23 men and 22 women; mean age, 49.5 ± 5.3 years), who had maintained a vegetarian diet for a minimum of 15 years, and 30 omnivores (15 men and 15 women; mean age, 48.9 ± 3.6 years) participated in this study. Their 1-day, 24-h recall, and 2-day dietary records were analyzed. Oxidative stress was measured by the levels of diacron reactive oxygen metabolites (d-ROM). Antioxidant status was determined by the biological antioxidant potential (BAP) and levels of endogenous antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. We observed that vegetarians had a significantly lower body fat percentage (21.6 ± 6.4%) than that of omnivores (25.4 ± 4.6%; P < 0.004). d-ROM levels were significantly lower in vegetarians than those in omnivores (331.82 ± 77.96 and 375.80 ± 67.26 Carratelli units; P < 0.011). Additionally, total cholesterol levels in the vegetarians and omnivores were 173.73 ± 31.42 mg/dL and 193.17 ± 37.89 mg/dL, respectively (P < 0.018). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol was 101.36 ± 23.57 mg/dL and 120.60 ± 34.62 mg/dL (P < 0.005) in the vegetarians and omnivores, respectively, indicating that vegetarians had significantly lower lipid levels. Thus, oxidative stress, body fat, and cholesterol levels were lower in long-term vegetarians than those in omnivores.
Keywords: Korean vegetarian; Long-term vegetarian diet; d-ROM; lipid profiles; oxidative stress.