A new study has found that the fewer animal-based products a person consumes, the less they tend to be extroverted, and the lower their body mass index.
The Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in collaboration with the University Hospital of Leipzig conducted a large-scale study involving almost 9,000 people on how vegetarianism or the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat is related not just to the body but also the psyche of a person regardless of one’s age, level of education, and gender.
Evelyn Medawar from MPI CBS’ Department of Neurology and colleagues found that the rarer the animal food in a person’s diet, the lower their BMI and body weight. She told Science Daily that foods that are excessively rich in sugar and fats are particularly fattening and they delay the feelings of satiety and stimulate the appetite. If a person avoids animal-based foods, they consume less of such products on average.
Digestive perks of being a vegetarian
The study also states that the fiber in the vegetarian diet has a positive effect on the microbiome in the intestine, keeping waste and food moving smoothly through the system. This is also the reason why it can make a person feel fuller earlier than when they eat animal ingredients. Since vegetables have high fiber and water content, they provide weight and volume but not calories. This is the reason why they are low-energy-dense foods. For people striving for weight loss, the goal is to eat low-energy-dense foods because it makes one feel fuller on fewer calories.
The animal-based products a person consumes also makes a difference in the BMI. A person who predominantly eats primary animal products, such as fish, sausage, and meat usually has a higher BMI than those who eat primary secondary animal products, like butter, dairy products, cheese, butter, eggs, and milk.
Medawar illustrates its significance in nutrition. An individual with a 1.2-point lower BMI on average either is on a vegetarian diet or continues to eat fish and meat but less often. To determine whether nutrition is ultimately the cause or there are other factors responsible for having a lower body weight, the team conducted a follow-up study with the help of University Hospital Leipzig researchers.
Personality traits and frequency of animal product intake
Vegan nutrition or vegetarianism is likewise linked to personality, especially extroversion, a personality trait that is typically characterized by high energy, outgoingness, and talkativeness. They found that people who predominantly eat plant-based foods are more introverted compared to those who mainly eat animal products.
Coauthor Veronica Witte from Leipzig University's Day Clinic for Cognitive Neurology said it is difficult to exactly point the reason behind it. It could be because introverted people are more socially segregated due to their eating habits or they have more restrictive eating habits. An introvert is often thought of as a reserved, quiet, and thoughtful individual. They don’t seek out social engagements as these events can leave them feeling drained or exhausted, the opposite of extroverts.
The team could not confirm, though, the connection between plant-based diets and depressive moods as other studies have previously suggested. Earlier analyses show that the more neurotic a person is, the more likely they are to behave more restrictively or avoid certain groups of food. She said that as their study focused solely on the avoidance of animal-based products, they could not observe the correlation between neurotic behavior and diet.
They believe that other factors may have blurred the results in previous analyses, which suggested the link between a plant-based diet and depressive moods. The team also encouraged future longitudinal studies to test the efficacy of a plant-based diet as a therapeutic or preventive strategy for obesity and overweight.
According to the Academic of Nutrition and Dietetics, a well-planned vegan diet can be healthful for people at all stages of life. It reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other conditions. Plant-based foods likewise tend to be more environmentally sustainable.
Vegetarianism by country
People are drawn to vegetarianism for various reasons, such as religion, health, environmental conservation, ethical motivation, economic factors, culture, and dislike of meat. According to the World Atlas, India is the top country in the world with the highest rates of vegetarianism. About 38% of its total population are vegetarians. The practice became popular after the introduction of Jainism and Buddhism. Other countries listed are Israel (13% of the population are vegetarians), Taiwan (12%), Italy (10%), Austria (9%), Germany (9%), United Kingdom (9%), Brazil (8%), Ireland (6%), and Australia (5%).
In survey data completed by vegetarian food platform The Fry’s Guy on the Australia market, it revealed the following reasons for becoming a vegetarian: concern for animal welfare (82%), health (8%), concern for the environment (3%), religious reasons (1%), and other (4%).
Last year, a global survey involving 6,476 people was also conducted by Vomad Life. It found that 31.8% or 4,721 people convinced or influenced someone to go vegan by having a discussion with them, by recommending them to watch a documentary or video or read a book (20.5% or 3,037 people), by showing them great food (22.9% or 3,398 people), through comments, sharing posts, and tagging people on social media (14.5% or 2,175 people), by creating content, such as videos, blogs, art, books, recipes, and memes (3.7% or 543 people), or by bringing them to a speech, lecture, or other events (2.5% or 365 people).
Nevertheless, Vrije Universiteit Brussel's Professor of Food Science and Biotechnology Frédéric Leroy and University of Hertfordshire's Visiting Research Fellow in Philosophy Martin Cohen said that not everyone should be vegan. Poor supplementation may result in serious cognitive and physical impairment and failure to thrive. This approach is particularly risky for the very young and pregnant as documented by medical literature.
Increasing the number of vegetables in the diet is a gift to the digestive health or the overall health in general but harmonious, ecological, and sustainable production should also be a part of the solution to the world food problem.