A recent study examining almost 9,000 people found that vegetarians are, on average, lighter than those who eat meat. That might not be shocking news. But why is that happening? Researchers from the University Hospital of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences tried to answer that.
This study was looking at how food choices influence the body and psyche, regardless of age, gender, and level of education. The researchers determined the personal diets by questionnaires in which the participants were asked to fill in how often they had eaten animal products in the last 12 months – from “several times a day” to “never.” The results were clear, the less animal food in a person’s diet, the lower their body mass index on average.
Processed food is the problem
The first author of the study, Evelyn Medawar, commented on one possible reason for this result: “Products that are excessively rich in fat and sugar are particularly fattening. They stimulate the appetite and delay the feeling of satiety. If you avoid animal foods, you consume fewer such products on average. People who eat predominantly vegetable foods may therefore absorb less energy.” She added that in addition to a changed feeling of satiety, lifestyle factors such as more sport and greater health awareness could also play a decisive role.
Meat and sausage have a bigger impact than eggs and dairy
The study also showed that eating primary animal products like meat, fish, and sausages correlated with more weight than secondary animal products like eggs and dairy. Medawar illustrated with an example: “A person with a 1.2-point lower body mass index on average either completely avoids certain animal products, such as the primary ones, and is on a vegetarian diet. Or she continues to eat meat and fish but less often. Whether nutrition is ultimately the cause of lower body weight or whether other factors are responsible for it cannot be determined from the data.”
Plant-based people are more introverted
The researchers also assessed personality traits of the study subjects with a so-called personality inventory test. Thanks to this they found that vegetarian or vegan nutrition is also related to personality. It was shown that people with predominantly plant-based foods in their diet are more introverted than those who eat more animal products.
“It is difficult to say what the reason for this is,” said Veronica Witte. “It could be because more introverted people tend to have more restrictive eating habits or because they are more socially segregated because of their eating habits.”
How about you? Would you be willing to restrict your diet to have a better chance of lowering your weight? Do you think that vegetarian cyclists tend to be introverted more often?