Genetic Links to Vegetarianism Uncovered in Groundbreaking Study


Adopting a meatless lifestyle might depend on more than determination alone. A recent research work reveals the existence of a genetic link that associates four genes with an individual’s ability to adapt effortlessly to a vegetarian diet.

The findings, which were made public on Wednesday, reflect that our genetics play a vital role in dietary preferences. It appears that specific individuals are genetically more inclined towards vegetarianism compared to others. The study failed to pinpoint exactly who would possess these genetic predispositions, however, it is hoped that this will be uncovered in future research.

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People choose to reduce or eliminate their meat intake for a multitude of reasons such as religious practices, health, morality, environmental conservation, and cultural norms. However, success varies. Peculiarly, it was noted that a sizeable percentage of self-claimed vegetarians confessed to consuming meat products while filling out detailed questionnaires. This indicates that, in spite of their best intentions, people often fail to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle, possibly due to genetic influences.

By using data from the UK Biobank—a comprehensive biomedical database and research resource—the study compared the dietary habits of over 5,000 strict vegetarians against those of more than 300,000 individuals in a control group who had consumed meat in the prior year. The study identified four genes strongly associated with vegetarianism and another 31 with potential associations. It was noted that vegetarians were more likely to have different variations of these genes compared to non-vegetarians.

An intriguing correlation was discovered involving the metabolization of lipids or fats. It appears that a number of genes associated with vegetarianism also dealt with lipid metabolism. The complexity of lipids varies between plant-based and meat diets, suggesting that certain individuals may be genetically predisposed to require some lipids provided by meat.

The findings hint towards a fascinating relationship between dietary choices and our genes. Hence, in the future, we may see tailored dietary recommendations based on a person’s genetic dispositions.

It should be noted, however, that the study was not without its limitations. All study participants were White, to maintain a consistent sample and prevent cultural practices from influencing the outcomes. However, this uniformity means that the findings may not necessarily apply to the global populace.

The study nevertheless illuminates the genetic foundations of dietary preferences—a field that is not as extensively explored as it should be. As such, the association of genetic variants with long-term strict vegetarianism suggests that the choice to forego meat in one’s diet may be biologically influenced rather than simply being a result of factors like culture, ethics, or environmental awareness.