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Vegetarians Tend to Be More Introverted Than Meat Eaters

In a new German study, researchers looked at how vegetarianism may be linked to a person’s personality, mental health and body type, regardless of age, gender and level of education, in nearly 9,000 participants.

The findings are published in the journal Nutrients.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS)  found that vegetarian or vegan nutrition is linked to one of the five major personality factors known as extroversion. It was shown that people with predominantly plant-based foods in their diet were more introverted than those who mainly fed on animal products.

“It is difficult to say what the reason for this is,” said study leader Dr. Veronica Witte. “It could be because more introverted people tend to have more restrictive eating habits or because they are more socially segregated because of their eating habits.”

However, the team could not confirm that a plant-based diet was associated with a tendency towards neurotic behavior, as other studies have suggested.

“Earlier analyses had found that more neurotic people were generally more likely to avoid certain groups of foods and to behave more restrictively. We focused here solely on the avoidance of animal products and could not observe any correlation,” said Witte.

The researchers also looked at whether a predominantly plant-based diet is more often associated with depressive moods. Here previous studies had also suggested a link between the two factors.

“We could not detect this correlation,” says Witte. “It is possible that in previous analyses other factors had blurred the results, including the BMI or conspicuous personality traits that are known to be associated with depression. We accounted for them,” said Witte, explaining a possible reason for the different results.

In addition, the plant-based diet is now more common and more accepted and not anymore restricted to a certain group.

Regarding body type, the researchers found that the less animal food found in a person’s diet, the lower their body mass index (BMI) on average and thus their body weight. One reason for this could be the lower proportion of heavily processed foods in the plant diet.

“Products that are excessively rich in fat and sugar are particularly fattening. They stimulate the appetite and delay the feeling of satiety. If you avoid animal foods, you consume fewer such products on average,” said doctoral student and first author Evelyn Medawar.

In addition, vegetarian food contains dietary fibers and has a positive effect on the microbiome in the intestine. This is another reason why this diet could fill you up earlier than those made from animal ingredients.

“People who eat predominantly vegetable foods may therefore absorb less energy,” Medawar said.

In addition to a changed feeling of satiety, lifestyle factors such as more physical activity and greater health awareness could also play a decisive role.

It also appears that different types of animal products may have varying impacts on BMI. For example, if an individual primarily eats so-called primary animal products, such as meat, sausage and fish, that person usually has a higher BMI than someone who eats primarily secondary animal products like eggs, milk, dairy products, cheese and butter.

The study data was acquired through the LIFE project, a broad-based study in cooperation with the University Hospital of Leipzig. The researchers determined the personal diets by means of questionnaires in which the participants were asked to fill in how often they had eaten the individual animal products in the last 12 months, from “several times a day” to “never.”

Personality traits such as extraversion and neuroticism were assessed via a personality inventory (NEOFFI), while depression was assessed by the CESD test, a questionnaire that records various symptoms of depression.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences


Vegetarians Tend to Be More Introverted Than Meat Eaters

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Vegetarians Tend to Be More Introverted Than Meat Eaters. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 16 Jun 2020 (Originally: 16 Jun 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 16 Jun 2020
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