Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Vegetarian figures hard to digest

A University of Auckland-led study has found the accurate percentage of vegetarians in New Zealand is dramatically less than the 20% cited in market research.

In new research published today, the University found the figure was more likely to be 2%.

The study used data from recent NZ Health Surveys, capturing answers from about 20,000 Kiwis. But, unlike earlier surveys, it asked whether participants excluded meat and dairy from their diet.

“There has been some market research that has asked whether people identify as being a ‘vegetarian’, which is likely to overestimate the proportion of people who exclude all meat,” says lead author, Dr Kathryn Bradbury from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the School of Population Health.

Less than 1% of New Zealanders are estimated to be vegan, also excluding dairy.

“This is important because government guidelines recommend a plant-based diet, with moderate amounts of animal-sourced foods,” Dr Bradbury said.

“Although our study estimated the proportion of New Zealanders who never eat meat and dairy products, we are calling for a comprehensive national nutrition survey, which would give us information on the actual amount of red meat and other animal-source foods that the New Zealand population currently consumes.

“We could then see the extent to which New Zealanders are meeting our dietary guidelines.

“What we eat is one of the major risk factors for chronic disease in NZ, and we don’t have good up-to-date information on what we are eating.

“So we don’t know which dietary-related policies we should implement and whether any policies we have or are planning would help to reduce chronic disease in our population.”

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