Health Biomarkers in Adults Are More Closely Linked to Diet Quality Attributes Than to Plant-Based Diet Categorization.

Nutrients. 2019;11(6)
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Plant-based diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes are consistently linked to reduced risk for chronic disease, improved cognition, and longevity. The aim of the study was to examine the diet quality and blood metabolites of vegetarian and omnivore adults to determine adherence to plant-based diets compared to high-quality eating patterns. The study is a cross-sectional investigation. Thirty-three participants (17 vegetarians: 3 men/14 women; 16 omnivores: 3 men/13 women) aged between 18 and 65 years were enrolled for the study. Results indicate the health biomarkers did not differ between vegetarians and omnivores matched for gender, age, and adiposity. However, when participants were regrouped by low-quality versus high-quality diets, data suggests that several common health biomarkers are more closely aligned with diet quality attributes than with plant-based diet categorisation. Authors conclude that healthcare practitioners should emphasize diet quality in their messages to their clients and discuss the importance of eating whole, minimally processed foods with less added fat and sugars.


Although plant-based diets are promoted for healthy outcomes, these diets are not synonymous with high-quality diets. Plant-based diets can include highly processed, less healthful foods, including savory snacks, pastries, and sugary fruit drinks. This cross-sectional study examined the diet quality of vegetarian and omnivorous adults, matched for gender, age, and adiposity, and related diet quality to standard health biomarkers. Diet quality was assessed using the Rapid Eating and Activity Assessment for Participants Short Version questionnaire. Participants (17 vegetarians and 16 omnivores; 28.2 ± 8.9 years; 22.5 ± 2.7 kg/m2) were non-smokers and healthy by self-report. The median duration of adherence to the vegetarian diet was 27 months. Physical activity level and diet quality did not differ significantly between diet groups. Moreover, health biomarkers did not differ by diet groups. When participants were regrouped by low versus high diet quality, health biomarkers differed significantly between groups for fasting insulin, HOMA-IR, triglyceride (TG)/HDL ratio, and blood folate, with more favorable levels in the group with high diet quality. These data suggest that health biomarkers more closely align with diet quality attributes than with plant-based diet categorization. Thus, messaging focused on healthy diet attributes may lead to better health outcomes than the simple promotion of plant-based diets.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Structural
Patient Centred Factors : Triggers/Diet quality
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients ; Physical exercise
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Blood

Methodological quality

Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Comparative Study ; Journal Article