APH 2010, 68, 121-133:

Nutritional intake of various groups of Flemish vegetarians

Deriemaeker P, Alewaeters K, Hebbelinck M, Clarys P

Keywords: nutritional intake, dietary adequacy, Flemish vegetarians

The most recent national nutritional survey (2004) indicates that 1.2% of the Flemish population follows a vegetarian diet. Information on nutritional intake in vegetarians in this population is scarce.

The aim of the present study is to describe the nutritional intake and dietary adequacy of various groups of Flemish vegetarians.

Materials and methods
Nutritional intake was assessed in various vegetarian groups from different study designs: young children (aged 1 to 10 y; n=27) (Group 1), adolescents and adults (aged 11 to 32 y; n=50) (Group 2), college students (aged 18 to 24 y; n= 24) (Group 3), life-long vegetarians (aged 14 to 71 y; n=36) (Group 4) and adults (aged 20 to 98; n= 106) (Group 5). Additionally, blood samples were collected and analysed in groups 3 and 4. Comparisons were made with standard references or with omnivores (Group 3).

Nutritional intake was found to be close to the Belgian RDA. However, all groups showed a number of outliers with an intake of some nutrients above or below the RDAs. Blood biochemistry showed low cholesterol, iron and vitamin B12 levels in vegetarians when comparing respectively with omnivores pairs (Group 3) and with reference values (Group 4).

Data collected in Flemish vegetarians indicate that a vegetarian diet may be adequate. However, the outliers in all groups show that proper dietary planning is advisable.