Are there any personality characteristics that distinguish vegetarians from carnivores or omnivores? Researchers have examined more than 9,000 people to answer these questions. Does what we eat decide our overall personality? Do vegetarians have a different personality than non-vegetarians? Let’s find out.
It turned out that those who eat little or no animal products have a certain body mass index. At the same time, vegetarians tend to be more introverted. However, the researchers could not establish a connection to depression or neuroticism.
Avoiding meat and animal products is the trend. According to estimates, up to eight percent of people in the world are vegan or vegetarian and the trend is rising. In India, vegetarians make up 38 percent of the total population, making India, the country with the highest number of vegetarians. The meat-free diet is said to reduce animal suffering along with conserving resources and the climate. Besides, low-meat food is considered healthy and can prevent cardiovascular diseases, among other things.
The problem, however, is that because many other influencing factors come into play when it comes to nutrition, it is difficult to clearly attribute certain characteristics to the vegetarian lifestyle because vegetarians are often athletic, health-conscious and more educated and all of this also influences their lifestyle and thus their health.
Assumptions in the test
Three hypotheses about supposedly typical characteristics of vegetarians need to be taken into account. This includes the assumption that vegetarians are slimmer on average than meat-eaters, that they differ in their personality type, and that they are more prone to depression.
For this purpose, almost 9,000 people were asked about their diet and the proportion of animal products in their menu over three years. At the same time, the researchers carried out standardized tests on personality traits and depression tendencies and determined the body mass index (BMI).
Vegetarians tend to be slimmer
The evaluation showed that people with less meat and animal products on the menu tend to be leaner, regardless of age, gender, and level of education. The body weight and body mass index of vegetarians were lower than that of meat-eaters. The difference was only slight but has a significant impact.
The average person’s BMI was 1.2 points lower than meat-eaters which means that they completely avoided certain animal products and had a vegetarian diet or that they did consume meat and fish, but less often. Converted to a person who is around 1.75 meters tall, the difference in meat content could make up around four kilograms. This could be explained, among other things, by the fact that meat is calorie-dense than most vegetables.
BMI depends on the type of animal food
In terms of body weight, it also made a difference in which animal products the participants ate. The BMI of participants who ate primary animal products such as meat, sausage, and fish was higher than those who ate many secondary animal products such as eggs, milk, milk products, cheese, and butter.
This is because many meat-eaters consume heavily processed foods such as sausages and ready meals which have a higher calorific value. Above all, body fat is primarily formed because of products that are excessively high in fat and sugar. If you do without animal foods, you consume fewer such highly processed products on average.
Vegetarians are more introverted but not neurotic
Regarding personality types, the study found that vegetarians tend to be more introverted than those who eat everything or have a lot of meat on their menu. It’s is hard to establish the reason behind it but it could be because more introverts tend to be more restrictive about eating or because of their eating behavior they are more socially isolated.
Contrary to expectations, there was no connection between vegetarianism and the personality trait of neuroticism. Neurotic people generally omit certain groups of food more often and act more restrictively, however, the correlation could not be established.
No tendency to depression
The scientists found no connection between depression and a meatless diet. Overall, the results suggest that a vegetarian or reduced meat diet may help you stay or become slim. At the same time, people with certain personality traits seem to be more inclined to change their diet accordingly and to avoid certain animal products. Further studies are required to clarify how exactly the connections are and which psychological and biological mechanisms are behind them.