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Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets

        Abstract

        It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods. This article reviews the current data related to key nutrients for vegetarians including protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12. A vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, supplements or fortified foods can provide useful amounts of important nutrients. An evidence-based review showed that vegetarian diets can be nutritionally adequate in pregnancy and result in positive maternal and infant health outcomes. The results of an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also appear to have lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than nonvegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. Features of a vegetarian diet that may reduce risk of chronic disease include lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, and phytochemicals. The variability of dietary practices among vegetarians makes individual assessment of dietary adequacy essential. In addition to assessing dietary adequacy, food and nutrition professionals can also play key roles in educating vegetarians about sources of specific nutrients, food purchase and preparation, and dietary modifications to meet their needs.
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          • Green R.
          Homocysteine, B vitamins, and the incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment: Results from the Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging.
          Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 85: 511-517
          • Gear J.S.
          • Ware A.
          • Fursdon P.
          • Mann J.I.
          • Nolan D.J.
          • Broadribb A.J.
          • Vessey M.P.
          Symptomless diverticular disease and intake of dietary fibre.
          Lancet. 1979; 1: 511-514
          • Aldoori W.H.
          • Giovannucci E.L.
          • Rimm E.B.
          • Wing A.L.
          • Trichopoulos D.V.
          • Willett W.C.
          A prospective study of diet and the risk of symptomatic diverticular disease in men.
          Am J Clin Nutr. 1994; 60: 757-764
          • Pixley F.
          • Wilson D.
          • McPherson K.
          • Mann J.
          Effect of vegetarianism on development of gall stones in women.
          Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1985; 291: 11-12
          • Muller H.
          • de Toledo F.W.
          • Resch K.L.
          Fasting followed by vegetarian diet in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A systematic review.
          Scand J Rheumatol. 2001; 30: 1-10
        6. Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): Revisions in the WIC Food Packages; Interim Rule.
          Federal Register. 2007; 72 (7CFR, Part 246) (Dec. 6): 68966-69032
        7. Modification of the “Vegetable Protein Products” requirements for the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program and Child And Adult Care Food Program.
          Federal Register. 2000; 65 (March 9): 12429-12442
        8. Accommodating children with special needs in the School Nutrition Programs.
          (US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service Web site) (Posted Fall 2001. Accessed July 10,2008)
        9. Healthy school lunches.
          (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Web site) (Posted August 2007. Accessed July 10,2008)
        10. Fluid milk substitutions in the School Nutrition Programs.
          Federal Register. 2008; 73 (September 12): 52903-52908
        11. Four-week vegetarian menu set for Meals on Wheels Sites.
          (The Vegetarian Resource Group Web site) (Posted May 18,1998. Accessed July 10,2008)
        12. Vegetarian menus.
          (New York City Department for the Aging Web site) (Accessed January 19, 2009)
          • Ogden A.
          • Rebein P.
          Do prison inmates have a right to vegetarian meals?.
          (Vegetarian Journal Mar/Apr 2001. The Vegetarian Resource Group Web site) (Posted January 16,2001. Accessed July 10,2008)
        13. Prison regulations by jurisdiction.
          (Prison Vegetarian Project Web site) (Accessed July 10,2008)
          • Federal Bureau of Prisons
          Program statement.
          (US Dept of Justice Web site) (Posted December 31,2004. Accessed July 10,2008)
        14. Special briefing on Objective Force Warrior and DoD Combat Feeding Program.
          (May 23,2002. US Department of Defense Web site) (Accessed July 10,2008)
        15. Combat feeding directorate improves meals.
          (US Dept of Defense Web site) (Accessed July 10, 2008)