If you believe a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, this research might give you pause. Researchers from Loma Linda University Health System in Loma Linda, California, recently published a study showing that despite similar caloric intake, vegetarians tend to have lower body mass index than nonvegetarians, with vegans being the most slender of all.
In the December 2012 edition of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2013; doi: 1016/j.jand.2013.06.349), research on more than 70,000 Seventh-day Adventists compared the subjects’ five dietary patterns: nonvegetarians (meat eaters), semivegetarians (occasional meat eaters), pescovegetarians (people who consume fish), lactoovo vegetarians (people who consume dairy products) and vegans (strict vegetarians).
Subjects had similar energy intake—about 2,000 calories per day— except for semivegetarians, who took in 1,707 kcal per day.
“There was a clear association between higher proportions of obesity, higher BMI averages and dietary patterns characterized by progressively higher intakes of meat and dairy products,” said the study’s first author, Nico Rizzo, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the department of nutrition at Loma Linda University School of Public Health. “These marked differences in BMI are of particular interest given that total energy intakes were similar between dietary patterns, and mean macronutrient composition and micronutrient intakes were markedly different between the dietary patterns.”