Health biomarkers in adults are more closely linked to diet quality attributes than to plant-based diet categorization

Selicia Mayra, Noel Ugarte, Carol S. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Although plant-based diets are promoted for healthy outcomes, these diets are not synonymous with high-quality diets. Plant-based diets can include highly processed, less healthful foods, including savory snacks, pastries, and sugary fruit drinks. This cross-sectional study examined the diet quality of vegetarian and omnivorous adults, matched for gender, age, and adiposity, and related diet quality to standard health biomarkers. Diet quality was assessed using the Rapid Eating and Activity Assessment for Participants Short Version questionnaire. Participants (17 vegetarians and 16 omnivores; 28.2 ± 8.9 years; 22.5 ± 2.7 kg/m2) were non-smokers and healthy by self-report. The median duration of adherence to the vegetarian diet was 27 months. Physical activity level and diet quality did not differ significantly between diet groups. Moreover, health biomarkers did not differ by diet groups. When participants were regrouped by low versus high diet quality, health biomarkers differed significantly between groups for fasting insulin, HOMA-IR, triglyceride (TG)/HDL ratio, and blood folate, with more favorable levels in the group with high diet quality. These data suggest that health biomarkers more closely align with diet quality attributes than with plant-based diet categorization. Thus, messaging focused on healthy diet attributes may lead to better health outcomes than the simple promotion of plant-based diets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1427
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Chronic disease risk
  • Diet quality
  • Health biomarkers
  • Plant-based diet
  • REAP-S
  • Vegetarian diets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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