Skip to navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer

Approved research

Genetics of Vegetarianism

Principal Investigator: Professor Nabeel Yaseen
Approved Research ID: 36756
Approval date: July 17th 2018

Lay summary

Vegetarianism has been advocated for thousands of years for religious, ethical, environmental, and health reasons. Nevertheless vegetarians are only a small minority of people worldwide. Substantial evidence points to a strong genetic component for food choice. We propose to test the hypothesis that the ability to subsist on a vegetarian diet is genetically determined. This study is designed to correlate diet with genotype in order to identify genes and/or metabolic pathways that might be associated with vegetarianism by comparing vegetarians to non-vegetarians using a genome-wide association study (GWAS). A better understanding of the biological underpinnings of food choice would pave the way for more effective, individualized dietary recommendations and interventions. If our hypothesis is correct, the GWAS study will identify genes and/or metabolic pathways where vegetarians differ significantly from non-vegetarians. We speculate that meat products contain hitherto unidentified essential nutrients that vegetarians are able to synthesize endogenously. Identification of genetic differences in metabolic pathways between vegetarians and non-vegetarians may pave the way for the future identification of these nutrients. This knowledge would pave the way for more individualized dietary guidelines and interventions, including possibly providing such nutrients as a supplement to enable more people to reap the benefits a vegetarian diet.