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Open Access Research

Dietary pattern analysis: a comparison between matched vegetarian and omnivorous subjects

Peter Clarys12*, Peter Deriemaeker12, Inge Huybrechts3, Marcel Hebbelinck1 and Patrick Mullie124

Author affiliations

1 Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Department of Human Biometrics and Biomechanics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

2 Erasmus University College, Brussels, Belgium

3 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Dietary Exposure Assessment Group (DEX), Lyon, France

4 International Prevention Research Institute (iPRI), Ecully (Lyon), France

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:82  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-82

Published: 13 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Dietary pattern analysis, based on the concept that foods eaten together are as important as a reductive methodology characterized by a single food or nutrient analysis, has emerged as an alternative approach to study the relation between nutrition and disease. The aim of the present study was to compare nutritional intake and the results of dietary pattern analysis in properly matched vegetarian and omnivorous subjects.

Methods

Vegetarians (n = 69) were recruited via purposeful sampling and matched non-vegetarians (n = 69) with same age, gender, health and lifestyle characteristics were searched for via convenience sampling. Two dietary pattern analysis methods, the Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010) and the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) were calculated and analysed in function of the nutrient intake.

Results

Mean total energy intake was comparable between vegetarians and omnivorous subjects (p > 0.05). Macronutrient analysis revealed significant differences between the mean values for vegetarians and omnivorous subjects (absolute and relative protein and total fat intake were significantly lower in vegetarians, while carbohydrate and fibre intakes were significantly higher in vegetarians than in omnivorous subjects). The HEI and MDS were significantly higher for the vegetarians (HEI = 53.8.1 ± 11.2; MDS = 4.3 ± 1.3) compared to the omnivorous subjects (HEI = 46.4 ± 15.3; MDS = 3.8 ± 1.4).

Conclusions

Our results indicate a more nutrient dense pattern, closer to the current dietary recommendations for the vegetarians compared to the omnivorous subjects. Both indexing systems were able to discriminate between the vegetarians and the non-vegetarians with higher scores for the vegetarian subjects.