2010-2011 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Vegetarian diets have become increasingly popular in the United States during the last century. Approximately 3.2% of U.S. adults follow a strict vegetarian diet while 10% of Americans claim they largely follow the diet. The correlation between college students' majors and their decision to partake in a meat exclusion diet was examined by surveying 197 University of Kentucky students. Of the students surveyed, 24.4% were studying nutrition, and the sample consisted of 21.3% freshman, 23.3% sophomores, 21.3% juniors, and 34.0% seniors. 18.75% of nutrition majors followed a vegetarian or pescetarian diet while only 5.37% of non-nutrition majors followed a meat-exclusion diet.
In addition, all surveyed participants were asked what they viewed as the most compelling argument to follow a vegetarian, vegan, or pescetarian diet. Students in nutrition majors ranked "health benefits" as a more compelling reason to become a vegetarian than students in non-nutrition majors. Also, non-nutrition majors on average ranked "animal rights" as the most important argument, and both groups of students ranked "to lose weight" as a weak argument. According to this data, vegetarian diets are a more popular choice among students in nutrition majors, and "health benefits" was the strongest reason for choosing a vegetarian diet. Students studying nutrition seem to be more aware of their health and dietary choices while non-nutrition students were more conscious of animal rights and food conservation issues. Although college students are often criticized for unhealthy dieting to lose weight, the surveyed students knew that vegetarian diets are not a weight loss tool.