Effect of the vegetarian diet on non-communicable diseases


  • Duo Li

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
    • Correspondence to: Duo Li, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Zhejiang University, 866 Yu-Hang-Tang Road, Hangzhou 310058, China. Email: duoli@zju.edu.cn

    Search for more papers by this author


A vegetarian diet generally includes plenty of vegetables and fruits, which are rich in phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, vitamins C and E, Fe3+, folic acid and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), and is low in cholesterol, total fat and saturated fatty acid, sodium, Fe2+, zinc, vitamin A, B12 and D, and especially n-3 PUFA. Mortality from all-cause, ischemic heart disease, and circulatory and cerebrovascular diseases was significantly lower in vegetarians than in omnivorous populations. Compared with omnivores, the incidence of cancer and type 2 diabetes was also significantly lower in vegetarians. However, vegetarians have a number of increased risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as increased plasma homocysteine, mean platelet volume and platelet aggregability compared with omnivores, which are associated with low intake of vitamin B12 and n-3 PUFA. Based on the present data, it would seem appropriate for vegetarians to carefully design their diet, specifically focusing on increasing their intake of vitamin B12 and n-3 PUFA to further reduce already low mortality and morbidity from non-communicable diseases. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry