Investigation of lifestyle choices of individuals following a vegan diet for health and ethical reasons

Appetite. 2015 Jul;90:31-6. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.02.026. Epub 2015 Feb 25.


The proportion of individuals choosing to follow a vegan diet has increased in recent years. The choice is made for different reasons, primarily concern for animals (ethics) and health, which may impact both specific food choices and other lifestyle behaviors linked to health outcomes. To determine the extent to which the reason for following a vegan diet was associated with health behaviors, we conducted an online survey recruiting an international sample of 246 individuals who reported adhering to a vegan diet. We hypothesized that compared to those following the diet for ethical reasons, those doing so for health reasons would consume foods with higher nutritional value and engage in other healthier lifestyle behaviors. Our hypotheses were partially supported in that those citing health reasons (n = 45) reported eating more fruit (U = 3503.00, p = 0.02) and fewer sweets (U = 3347.00, p <0.01) than did those citing ethical reasons (n = 201). Individuals endorsing ethical reasons reported being on the diet longer (U = 3137.00, p <0.01), and more frequent consumption of soy (U = 2936.00, p <0.01), foods rich in vitamin D (U = 3441.00, p = 0.01), high-polyphenol beverages (U = 3124.50, p <0.01), and vitamin supplements (vitamin D: χ(2)=4.65, p = 0.04; vitamin B12: χ(2)=4.46, p = 0.03) than did those endorsing health reasons. As these factors may affect outcome in studies investigating the impact of vegan diets on health, they should be taken into account when studying persons following a vegan diet.

Keywords: Ethical vegan; Health behaviors; Health vegan; Nutrition; Vegan; Vegetarian.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / ethics*
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegans / psychology*
  • Young Adult