For some, going vegetarian is a breeze, while others really struggle to give up meat. But, the success of your diet switch might not be fully dependent on willpower.
Instead, new research conducted by scientists at Northwestern University suggests that your genetic makeup could actually play a significant role in how easy it is for you to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle.
At the start of 2022, about 10% of American adults labeled themselves as either vegetarian or vegan, according to Kansas State University surveys.
The reasons for choosing a plant-centric diet differ from person to person and can range from health benefits and animal welfare to religious beliefs and environmental factors.
Interestingly, prior research indicates that nearly 50% of people who consider themselves vegetarians still consume meat on occasion.
“This suggests that many people who would like to be vegetarian are unable to stick to a strict vegetarian diet,” said Nabeel Yaseen, an author of the study.
“Given that several prior studies have shown that food choices are strongly influenced by genetics, we wanted to see if adhering to a strict vegetarian diet is influenced by genetics.”
Utilizing the UK Biobank, which houses comprehensive genetic and health records from half a million participants in the UK, researchers singled out 5,324 individuals who strictly followed a vegetarian diet, as well as 329,455 who consumed meat.
Afterward, the team compared strict vegetarians’ genetic profiles against the genetic profiles of meat eaters via a genome-wide association study (GWAS). The goal was to pinpoint genes that could be linked with vegetarianism.