Nutrient intakes and eating behavior scores of vegetarian and nonvegetarian women

J Am Diet Assoc. 1995 Feb;95(2):180-6, 189, quiz 187-8. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8223(95)00045-3.


Objective: To compare nutrient intakes between vegetarians and nonvegetarians with similar health practices, and to assess relationships with eating behavior scores from the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire.

Design: Survey.

Setting: Metropolitan area in western Canada.

Subjects: Subjects (n = 45) were participants in a study comparing subclinical menstrual disturbances between vegetarians and nonvegetarians. To be included, women had to be 20 to 40 years old, be weight stable with a body mass index (BMI; kg/m2) of 18 to 25, be a nonsmoker, exercise 7 hours a week or less, consume one alcoholic drink or less a day, and not be using oral contraceptives. Nonvegetarians (n = 22) ate red meat three times a week or more, and vegetarians (n = 23, 8 vegans and 15 lactovegetarians) had excluded all meat, fish, and poultry for 2 years or more.

Main outcome measures: Nutrient intake assessed by three 3-day diet records; supplement use; body composition; and dietary restraint (conscious limitation of food intake), disinhibition, and hunger assessed by the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire.

Statistical analyses performed: Anthropometric variables, nutrient intakes, and eating behavior scores were compared between vegetarians and nonvegetarians using unpaired t tests, and among vegans, lactovegetarians, and nonvegetarians using one-way analysis of variance and Duncan's test. Supplement use was compared using chi 2 analysis. The Pearson correlation coefficient was used to evaluate relationships between variables.

Results: Diets of all women adhered closely to current nutrition recommendations. Vegetarians had lower protein and cholesterol intakes and higher percentage of energy as carbohydrate, ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat (P:S ratio), and fiber intake than nonvegetarians. Vegetarians had lower riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-12, zinc, and sodium intakes and higher folate, vitamin C, and copper intakes. However, many differences were not apparent between the subgroup of lactovegetarians and nonvegetarians (their P:S ratios and carbohydrate, fiber, riboflavin, folate, vitamin C, and copper intakes were similar). In contrast, differences existed between the lactovegetarian and the vegan subgroups. Supplement use was similar between groups, except for greater vitamin C use by vegetarians. Vegetarians were leaner than nonvegetarians, had lower restraint scores, and had significant associations between restraint and BMI (r = .49; P < .05) and energy per kilogram body weight (r = -.60; P < .01).

Applications/conclusions: Current nutrition recommendations can be attained by vegetarians and nonvegetarians alike, but nutrient intakes cannot be inferred from dietary pattern. In this study, the intakes of health-conscious nonvegetarians and lactovegetarians were more similar than the intakes of lactovegetarians and vegans. Vegans' calcium and vitamin B-12 intakes may need attention. Vegetarians' lower restraint scores suggest that they are not at increased risk for eating disorders.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anthropometry
  • British Columbia
  • Diet Records
  • Diet, Vegetarian*
  • Eating*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Minerals / administration & dosage
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage


  • Minerals
  • Vitamins