idw – Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Nachrichten, Termine, Experten

Grafik: idw-Logo
Thema Corona

Science Video Project
idw-News App:


Share on: 
12/14/2016 11:27

A vegetarian diet on prescription?

Susanne Glasmacher Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Robert Koch-Institut

    The second issue of the RKI’s new publication, the Journal of Health Monitoring, focuses on nutrition

    How many people follow a vegetarian diet in Germany and how is a plant-based diet currently appraised from a public health perspective? Do people in Germany have an adequate vitamin D and folate status? What proportion of the population actually cooks with fresh food? The second issue of the Journal of Health Monitoring focuses on diet and nutrition. First published in September 2016, this new online journal extends the Robert Koch Institute’s publication forms on health-related issues in Germany. The Journal of Health Monitoring is published quarterly in German and English. All contributions to the journal are subject to peer review and can be downloaded free of charge from the website of the Robert Koch Institute (

    This current issue features two in-depth articles, one on vegetarian diet and one on breastfeeding. Furthermore, it includes four fact sheets on vitamin D status, sodium intake, folate status and cooking frequency. The fact sheets present key findings, for example, the fact that 30.2% of adults have a deficient vitamin D status. Moreover, the sodium intake of large parts of the German population is too high, based on German and international recommendations. In addition, most women of reproductive age do not meet the World Health Organization’s recommended population level for folate to reduce the risk for neural tube defects. Finally, a total of 50.8% of adults prepare their own meals daily or almost daily from fresh foods.

    For the article on vegetarian diet, epidemiologists at the RKI evaluated data from the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults (DEGS1). When asked ‘Do you usually follow a vegetarian diet?’, 4.3% of adult respondents aged between 18 and 79 answered ‘Yes’. A vegetarian diet is more widespread among women (6.1 %) than men (2.5%). The article covers both the prevalence of a vegetarian diet and the implications of a vegetarian diet on health.

    Nutritionists and health experts once assumed that vegetarians might have a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies. Recent studies, however, have observed a general healthy nutrient balance among both vegetarians and vegans. Current emphasis is on the potential of a vegetarian or predominantly vegetarian diet to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Studies from several countries show that prescribing a vegetarian diet can help reduce a person’s body mass index (BMI).

    Frequently, a vegetarian diet attaches also great importance to socio-political and environmental benefits. A reduction in meat consumption in Germany would also be reasonable from a public health perspective, since average meat consumption is considerably higher than the level recommended by the German Nutrition Society. These advantages would be further enhanced if, in addition to the relatively small group of people who entirely refrain from eating meat, a larger part of the population would also reduce their meat consumption.

    The new journal will cover all questions of public health including physical and mental health, health behaviour, risk and protective factors, as well as medical and nursing care.

    Robert Koch Institute
    Nordufer 20
    D-13353 Berlin
    Twitter: @rki_de

    Press office
    Susanne Glasmacher
    (Press officer)
    Günther Dettweiler
    (Deputy press officer)
    Heidi Golisch
    Claudia Paape
    Judith Petschelt

    Contact details
    Phone: 030-18754-2239, -2562 or -2286

    The Robert Koch Institute is a federal institute within the portfolio of the German Federal Ministry of Health

    Criteria of this press release:
    Journalists, all interested persons
    Biology, Medicine, Nutrition / healthcare / nursing, Social studies
    transregional, national
    Miscellaneous scientific news/publications, Scientific Publications


    Search / advanced search of the idw archives
    Combination of search terms

    You can combine search terms with and, or and/or not, e.g. Philo not logy.


    You can use brackets to separate combinations from each other, e.g. (Philo not logy) or (Psycho and logy).


    Coherent groups of words will be located as complete phrases if you put them into quotation marks, e.g. “Federal Republic of Germany”.

    Selection criteria

    You can also use the advanced search without entering search terms. It will then follow the criteria you have selected (e.g. country or subject area).

    If you have not selected any criteria in a given category, the entire category will be searched (e.g. all subject areas or all countries).