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News, Blogs & Press Releases » DNA and Vegetarians

DNA and Vegetarians

Is being vegetarian down to your DNA?

New research published today suggests that your DNA could play a part in whether you become vegetarian or not. We think that could be too simplistic a view,  surely there are many factors at play in the choices we make.

The study in question can be read about in this online Journal published by Plos.org.

We were contacted by the New Scientist and the Times for a comment. Here’s the comment we gave:

Richard McIlwain, Chief Executive, the Vegetarian Society said:

“In our experience it is very common for vegetarians to have quite a different dietary preference to people in their family to whom they are genetically related. According to the NDNS which the authors cite, the number of adult vegetarians almost doubled in the period 2012-2019 rising from 2.3% to 4.5% – one in 22 people. That would seem to suggest something other than underlying genetic factors are at play; people go vegetarian because, more and more, they are concerned about climate, about animal welfare or about their health, and it represents a solution. Psychological factors such as tradition (at both family and population level), social norms, peer pressure, income, education and awareness of animal suffering in food production and “taste preferences” are far more important determinants of vegetarianism than any physiological factors.

Indeed, when a similar story broke back in 2016, Professor Nathaniel Comfort, the Baruch Blumberg professor of astrobiology at NASA who blogs about hype and misconceptions in genetic research was quoted as saying ‘Genetics often gets oversimplified due to a general misunderstanding of how genes affect traits. One single gene does not cause one single trait, and the relationship between the genes and the traits they impact is complicated, but that doesn’t always make for the most exciting headline, so these kind of studies often get boiled down to labels like “the vegetarian gene”.

Notes to editors

For media enquiries please contact Su via press@vegsoc.org


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