Taiwanese Vegetarians and Omnivores: Dietary Composition, Prevalence of Diabetes and IFG


The diabetes epidemic in Asia and particularly in China emerged simultaneously with increased meat consumption and higher proportion of energy intake from animal protein and fat [1]. Compared with Westerners, Asians tend to incur diabetes at a younger age and at a lower body mass index (BMI), possibly due to genetic susceptibility in combination with environmental exposures [2]. Vegetarian diets have been associated with a lower prevalence [3] and incidence [4] of diabetes among Seventh day Adventists. Previous clinical trials have shown vegetarian diets improve glycemic control [5] and insulin sensitivity [6]. Although several small studies reported lower glucose level and better insulin sensitivity in Taiwanese vegetarians than omnivores [7][9], no study thus far has examined whether a vegetarian diet protects against diabetes in Chinese ethnic Asian population, a high risk population that may incur diabetes despite having a normal BMI value [2]. Moreover, Asian diets tend to be lower in meat and higher in plant foods compared with Western diet. It remains unknown whether a diet completely avoiding meat and fish would further extend the protective effect of a plant-based diet. In addition, most studies on Asian vegetarians tend to compare vegetarians from religious groups with omnivores from the general population [7]. Religious and spiritual practices (a main determinant of vegetarian dietary practice in Asia) may be associated with social and emotional support which may confound health outcomes [10], [11].


We found a strong protective association between Taiwanese vegetarian diet and diabetes/IFG, after controlling for various potential confounders and risk factors.

The full study report can be found here.



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