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How empathic are vegan medical professionals compared to others? Leads from a paper–pencil-survey


The aim of this survey was to examine differences in personality profiles among 198 vegan (n = 64; 32.3%), vegetarian (n = 78; 39.4%) and omnivore (n = 55; 27.8%) medical professionals. Outcomes were motives for the nutritional approaches, WHO QoL-BREF, Big Five SOEP Inventory, Portraits Value Questionnaire, and Empathizing Scale. Regarding motives for particular diets, omnivores rated influence of guardians (p < 0.001), physical health (p = 0.017) and food taste (p = 0.001) as more and love of animals as less important (p < 0.001) than vegans and vegetarians. Vegans and vegetarians consumed less coffee (p = 0.007) and alcohol compared to omnivores (p = 0.017). The duration of adhering to a specific diet was significantly shorter in vegans. Data suggest that vegan medical professionals do not differ from vegetarians or omnivores regarding empathy, values or personality traits. Differences to a related internet sample were observed for a number of outcomes. Given the small sample size and potential selection bias through the specific subpopulation attending a plant-based nutrition conference, further studies are warranted to confirm these results. Particularly, potential reciprocities between empathy and individual nutritional choices deserve further attention.

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Thanks to the German Vegetarian Society (VEBU) for its very valuable support, particularly to Sebastian Joy and Hendrik Schulte. Most importantly, however, we would like to express our thanks to all participants, regardless of their nutritional choices.

Author contributions

CK and HC conceptualized the research project, developed the methodology and the trial protocol. CK and SH conducted the investigation process and coordinated the research activity planning and execution. CK and HC wrote the initial draft of the manuscript. SH, VM and AM took part in editing the manuscript. HC performed the formal statistical analysis and performed data entry and data curation.


The study was funded by institutional funds from first author’s institute only. No other funding sources were used.

Transparency declaration

CK and HC had full access to all of the data in the study and take full responsibility for theintegrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. They affirm that the manuscript isan honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no importantaspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as planned have been explained.

Data sharing

Statistical code: Available from Dr. Holger Cramer (e-mail: Data set: Certain portions of the analytic data set are available to approved individuals through written agreements with the authors.

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Correspondence to Christian S Kessler.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

The study was approved by the Charité Medical University ethics committee before beginning its implementation (approval number: EA1/282/13).

Informed consent

Participants were informed about the study and voluntariness of participation and gave consent to participate.

Registration and ethics

The study was registered at under NCT02055677 (initial release 10/31/2013).

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Kessler, C.S., Michalsen, A., Holler, S. et al. How empathic are vegan medical professionals compared to others? Leads from a paper–pencil-survey. Eur J Clin Nutr 72, 780–784 (2018).

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