Characteristics of Americans Choosing Vegetarian and Vegan Diets for Health Reasons

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2017, 49 (7), pp. 561 - 567.e1
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© 2017 Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Objective Examine the prevalence, patterns, and associated factors of using a vegetarian or vegan diet for health reasons in the US general population. Design Cross-sectional data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. Participants Nationally representative sample (N = 34,525). Variables Measured Prevalence of ever use and 12-month use of vegetarian or vegan diet for health reasons, patterns of use, and sociodemographic and health-related factor associated with use. Analysis Multiple logistic regression analysis. Results Prevalence of ever use and 12-month use was 4.0% (n = 1,367) and 1.9% (n = 648), respectively. Health vegetarians and vegans were more likely aged 30–65 years, female, not Hispanic, from the Western US region, at least high school educated, chronically ill, and physically active. They were less likely to be in a relationship, overweight or obese, or smoking, or to have public or private health insurance. Among health vegetarians and vegans, 6.3% consulted with a practitioner for special diets; 26.1% followed the diet because of a specific health problem, mainly high cholesterol, overweight, hypertension, and diabetes; and 59.4% disclosed the diet to their health care provider. Conclusions and Implications Less than 2% of participants reported using a vegetarian or vegan diet for health reasons within the past 12 months. Despite potential benefits of plant-based nutrition, more research is warranted on the actual use and its effects and safety.
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