Anthropometric and physiologic characteristics in white and British Indian vegetarians and nonvegetarians in the UK Biobank

Tammy Y.N. Tong, Timothy J. Key, Jakub G. Sobiecki and Kathryn E. Bradbury


A detailed description of anthropometric and physiologic characteristics of persons in different diet groups is lacking. This paper aimed to perform cross-sectional analyses of diet group with anthropometric and physiologic characteristics in a large cohort in the United Kingdom.


The UK Biobank recruited ∼500,000 middle-aged participants throughout the United Kingdom in 2006–2010. Anthropometric indexes (height, weight, waist and hip circumference, body composition) and other physiologic characteristics (heel bone mineral density, grip strength, blood pressure, pulse rate) were measured following standardized protocols. We estimated the age-adjusted means of each characteristic in 6 diet groups (198,166 regular meat eaters, 199,784 low meat eaters, 4381 poultry eaters, 9674 fish eaters, 6366 vegetarians, and 378 vegans) in white women and men, and in 2 diet groups (3322 meat eaters and 1186 vegetarians) in British Indian women and men.


In white women, after adjustment for age and compared with regular meat eaters, non–red meat eaters had lower adiposity (e.g., 4.5% lower body fat in vegan women) and lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure (−4.2 and −3.3 mm Hg, respectively), and generally lower heel bone mineral density t-score (−0.26). Patterns of differences by diet group were similar in white men. In the Indian population, compared with meat eaters, vegetarian women were shorter (−1.1 cm) and had lower lean mass (−0.5 kg), and both vegetarian women and men had lower grip strength (−1.3 and −1.4 kg, respectively). No significant differences in the other characteristics were observed.


Differences in anthropometric and physiologic characteristics were observed across diet groups in white participants, but fewer differences were observed in British Indian participants. The observed differences may be important as intermediate markers of long-term health in different diet groups. This observational study was registered at as ISRCTN10125697.




Publication details

Tong TYN, Key TJ, Sobiecki JG, Bradbury KE. 2018. Anthropometric and physiological characteristics in white and British Indian vegetarians and non-vegetarians in the UK Biobank. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 107(6): 909-920