What is it about?

Our study shows that adherence to a strict vegetarian diet is influenced by genetics. We identified 3 genes that show a statistically significant association with vegetarianism as well as another 31 genes with possible association with vegetarianism. Several of these genes have functions related to lipid metabolism and brain function, which suggests that these processes may play a role in one's ability to pursue a strict vegetarian diet.

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Why is it important?

This is the first fully peer-reviewed and indexed study to specifically address the genetics of vegetarianism and to identify several genes that may play a role in vegetarianism.


Abstention from the consumption of animal flesh has been advocated for thousands of years for religious, ethical, environmental, and health-related reasons; yet vegetarians remain a small minority of people worldwide. Approximately half of self-identified vegetarians actually report consuming fish, poultry, and/or red meat when responding to detailed questionnaires, which suggests that many people who want to be vegetarian have difficulty subsisting on strict vegetarian diet. Our data suggest that genetics might be part of the reason. Hopefully future studies on the genetics and physiology of vegetarianism will enable us to provide personalized dietary recommendations and perhaps lead to the development of better meat substitutes.

Nabeel Yaseen
Northwestern University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Genetics of vegetarianism: A genome-wide association study, PLoS ONE, October 2023, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0291305.
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