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

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 → fish-eater → vegetarian → 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.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all participants in this study and the EPIC-Oxford study staff at the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit. EPIC-Oxford is supported by Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council. MR was supported by a grant from the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research.

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Correspondence to T Key.

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Rosell, M., Appleby, P., Spencer, E. et al. Weight gain over 5 years in 21 966 meat-eating, fish-eating, vegetarian, and vegan men and women in EPIC-Oxford. Int J Obes 30, 1389–1396 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803305

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803305

Keywords

  • diet
  • weight gain
  • vegetarian
  • vegan
  • longitudinal study

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