Comparison of the nutritional knowledge and nutritional adequacy of lacto ovo-vegetarian, vegan and omnivore diets in a student population in Scotland.
Background: Meat-free diets are becoming increasingly popular and although, it is possible for all three diets to provide adequate nutrients, there is still a perception that a vegan and vegetarian diet could be deficient in vital nutrients. Contrastingly, omnivores are believed to consume a number of nutrients in excess. Although no studies have compared nutritional knowledge between the vegan, lacto ovo-vegetarian and omnivore diet, research suggests that a greater nutritional knowledge is associated with a healthier diet. Aim: The aim of this study is to compare the nutritional knowledge and the nutritional adequacy of vegan, lacto ovo-vegetarian and omnivore diets in a Scottish student population. Method: Healthy students (vegans, n=7; lacto ovo-vegetarians, n=5; omnivores, n=12) aged over 18 years were recruited for this study. The validated General Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire was used to determine whether there was a difference in nutritional knowledge between the three diets. The NDNS 4-day estimated diet diary was used to assess dietary intakes and diets were analysed using Windiets 2015. Statistical analysis was carried out on IBM SPSS Statistics 23 using a one-way ANOVA test to compare the nutritional knowledge of each diet group and to determine the nutritional adequacy of each diet. A one sample t-test was conducted to compare diet group intakes to the Scottish nutritional guidelines. Results: There was found to be no significant difference in nutritional knowledge between the three diets (p>0.05). The results also suggest that there is no difference in macronutrient intakes between the three diets (p>0.05). Vitamin B12 intake was significantly greater in the vegan group due to supplementation (p<0.05). The omnivore group had the greatest iodine intake but did not meet the recommendation, thus all groups were deficient. All group’s nutrient intakes were significantly different from the Scottish nutritional guidelines (p<0.05) except for free sugar intake in the lacto ovo-vegetarians (p>0.05). Conclusion: There is no difference in nutritional knowledge between vegan, lacto ovo-vegetarian and omnivore diets. There are advantages and disadvantages to following each of the diets in a Scottish student population. Further research would provide a better understanding of the nutritional adequacy of each diet as no studies of this kind have been conducted in a Scottish student population. Vegans and lacto ovo-vegetarians need to be aware of their vitamin B12 and iodine intake to prevent deficiency. All diets required improvement to meet the Scottish nutritional guidelines, future research can assess whether this is true for the general population. Keywords: Vegan, Lacto ovo-vegetarian, Omnivore, Student, Dietary intake, Nutritional knowledge.