Original Article

International Journal of Obesity (2006) 30, 1389–1396. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803305; published online 14 March 2006

Weight gain over 5 years in 21 966 meat-eating, fish-eating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women in EPIC-Oxford

M Rosell1, P Appleby1, E Spencer1 and T Key1

1Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Correspondence: Dr T Key, Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Richard Doll Building, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK. E-mail: tim.key@ceu.ox.ac.uk

Received 14 February 2005; Revised 11 October 2005; Accepted 13 October 2005; Published online 14 March 2006.

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Abstract

Background:

 

Cross-sectional studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans are leaner than omnivores. Longitudinal data on weight gain in these groups are sparse.

Objective:

 

We investigated changes in weight and body mass index (BMI) over a 5-year period in meat-eating, fish-eating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women in the UK.

Design:

 

Self-reported anthropometric, dietary and lifestyle data were collected at baseline in 1994–1999 and at follow-up in 2000–2003; the median duration of follow-up was 5.3 years.

Subjects:

 

A total of 21 966 men and women participating in Oxford arm of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition aged 20–69 years at baseline.

Results:

 

The mean annual weight gain was 389 (SD 884) g in men and 398 (SD 892) g in women. The differences between meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in age-adjusted mean BMI at follow-up were similar to those seen at baseline. Multivariable-adjusted mean weight gain was somewhat smaller in vegans (284 g in men and 303 g in women, P<0.05 for both sexes) and fish-eaters (338 g, women only, P<0.001) compared with meat-eaters. Men and women who changed their diet in one or several steps in the direction meat-eater right arrow fish-eater right arrow vegetarian right arrow vegan showed the smallest mean annual weight gain of 242 (95% CI 133–351) and 301 (95% CI 238–365) g, respectively.

Conclusion:

 

During 5 years follow-up, the mean annual weight gain in a health-conscious cohort in the UK was approximately 400 g. Small differences in weight gain were observed between meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Lowest weight gain was seen among those who, during follow-up, had changed to a diet containing fewer animal food.

Keywords:

diet, weight gain, vegetarian, vegan, longitudinal study

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