Vegan diet followers have low risk of eating disorders, study finds

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With the rise in popularity of vegan diets, stemming from concerns over sustainability and animal rights, researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) embarked on an exploration to comprehend the prevalence of dysfunctional dietary behaviors amongst vegans.

The research, published in JAMA Network Open, sought to unravel whether veganism and its inherent food restrictions could be masking disordered eating attitudes and behaviors.

The results of the study, which involved analyzing responses from nearly a thousand participants through an online questionnaire, discovered that only 0.6% of the participants displayed disordered eating attitudes, a figure substantially lower than the estimated 6.5% in the general Brazilian population.

The principal findings indicate that the incidence of such dysfunctional behaviors is more linked with the underlying motivations for dieting than the diet type itself.

Motivations Behind Veganism

The study divulged that a significant majority, 62% of the participants, adhered to veganism primarily due to concerns related to ethics and animal rights, while only 10% cited health reasons.

Hamilton Roschel, the head of the Applied Physiology and Nutrition Research Group at USP, highlights that understanding these motivations is pivotal for developing tailored nutritional care programs.

The study implies that when the adoption of veganism is motivated primarily by ethical concerns, it may lower the likelihood of dysfunctional dietary behaviors.

Researchers utilized an online survey to amass socio-demographic data and dietary habits information from 971 subjects aged 18 or above from various regions of Brazil.

The responses allowed the researchers to infer the proportion of vegans exhibiting dysfunctional dietary behaviors.

The second stage of the research was concentrated on unraveling the reasons behind dietary choices. The conclusions derived from this research are, however, correlational and do not imply causation.

Importance of Understanding Dietary Choices

Roschel emphasizes the importance of understanding individual dietary choices for maintaining mental health and developing interventions to encourage healthy eating and prevent or treat eating disorders.

He suggests that more nuanced and diversified research is required to draw definitive conclusions and develop appropriate interventions.


This study by the University of São Paulo sheds light on the often speculated connection between vegan diets and disordered eating, revealing a lower prevalence of dysfunctional dietary behaviors among vegans when compared to the general population.

The findings highlight the crucial role of motivations behind dietary choices, suggesting that when veganism is adopted for ethical reasons, it may not necessarily facilitate disordered eating attitudes or behaviors.

However, further comprehensive research is essential to delve deeper into the intricate relationship between diet types and eating behaviors, enabling the formulation of effective health and dietary interventions.

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The research findings can be found in JAMA Network Open.

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