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Open Access Research

The Netherlands Cohort Study – Meat Investigation Cohort; a population-based cohort over-represented with vegetarians, pescetarians and low meat consumers

Anne MJ Gilsing1*, Matty P Weijenberg1, R Alexandra Goldbohm2, Pieter C Dagnelie3, Piet A van den Brandt1 and Leo J Schouten1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, GROW-School for Oncology and Developmental Biology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, Maastricht 6216, MD, The Netherlands

2 TNO, Leiden, The Netherlands

3 Department of Epidemiology, CAPHRI School of Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

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Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:156  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-156

Published: 29 November 2013

Abstract

Background

Vegetarian diets have been associated with lower risk of chronic disease, but little is known about the health effects of low meat diets and the reliability of self-reported vegetarian status. We aimed to establish an analytical cohort over-represented with vegetarians, pescetarians and 1 day/week meat consumers, and to describe their lifestyle and dietary characteristics. In addition, we were able to compare self-reported vegetarians with vegetarians whose status has been confirmed by their response on the extensive food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).

Study methods

Embedded within the Netherlands Cohort Study (n = 120,852; including 1150 self-reported vegetarians), the NLCS-Meat Investigation Cohort (NLCS-MIC) was defined by combining all FFQ-confirmed-vegetarians (n = 702), pescetarians (n = 394), and 1 day/week meat consumers (n = 1,396) from the total cohort with a random sample of 2–5 days/week- and 6–7 days/week meat consumers (n = 2,965 and 5,648, respectively).

Results

Vegetarians, pescetarians, and 1 day/week meat consumers had more favorable dietary intakes (e.g. higher fiber/vegetables) and lifestyle characteristics (e.g. lower smoking rates) compared to regular meat consumers in both sexes. Vegetarians adhered to their diet longer than pescetarians and 1 day/week meat consumers. 75% of vegetarians with a prevalent cancer at baseline had changed to this diet after diagnosis. 50% of self-reported vegetarians reported meat or fish consumption on the FFQ. Although the misclassification that occurred in terms of diet and lifestyle when merely relying on self-reporting was relatively small, the impact on associations with disease risk remains to be studied.

Conclusion

We established an analytical cohort over-represented with persons at the lower end of the meat consumption spectrum which should facilitate prospective studies of major cancers and causes of death using ≥20.3 years of follow-up.

Keywords:
Vegetarian; Low meat diet; Cohort; Self-report; FFQ