Vegetarian diet, change in dietary patterns, and diabetes risk: a prospective study

Nutr Diabetes. 2018 Mar 9;8(1):12. doi: 10.1038/s41387-018-0022-4.


Background/objectives: Vegetarian diets are inversely associated with diabetes in Westerners but their impact on Asians-whose pathophysiology differ from Westerners-is unknown. We aim to investigate the association between a vegetarian diet, change in dietary patterns and diabetes risk in a Taiwanese Buddhist population.

Methods: We prospectively followed 2918 non-smoking, non-alcohol drinking Buddhists free of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases at baseline, for a median of 5 years, with 183 incident diabetes cases confirmed. Diet was assessed through a validated food frequency questionnaire at baseline and a simple questionnaire during follow-ups. Incident cases of diabetes were ascertained through follow-up questionnaires, fasting glucose and HbA1C. Stratified Cox Proportional Hazards Regression was used to assess the effect of diets on risk of diabetes.

Results: Consistent vegetarian diet was associated with 35% lower hazards (HR: 0.65, 95% CI: 0.46, 0.92), while converting from a nonvegetarian to a vegetarian pattern was associated with 53% lower hazards (HR: 0.47, 95% CI: 0.30, 0.71) for diabetes, comparing with nonvegetarians while adjusting for age, gender, education, physical activity, family history of diabetes, follow-up methods, use of lipid-lowering medications, and baseline BMI.

Conclusion: Vegetarian diet and converting to vegetarian diet may protect against diabetes independent of BMI among Taiwanese.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asians*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Body Mass Index
  • Buddhism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control*
  • Diet
  • Diet Surveys
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taiwan


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A