British Journal of Nutrition

Dietary Survey and Nutritional Epidemiology

Characteristics and nutrient intake of Taiwanese elderly vegetarians: evidence from a national survey

Chun-Jen Huanga1a2a3, Yen-Chun Fana1, Jen-Fang Liua4 and Pei-Shan Tsaia5a6a7 c1

a1 Department of Anesthesiology, Buddhist Tzu Chi General Hospital, Taipei Branch, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC

a2 School of Medicine, Tzu Chi University, Hualien, Taiwan, ROC

a3 School of Medicine, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC

a4 School of Nutrition and Health Sciences, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC

a5 Graduate Institute of Nursing, College of Nursing, Taipei Medical University, 250 Wu Hsing Street, Taipei 110, Taiwan, ROC

a6 Department of Nursing, Wan Fang Hospital, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC

a7 Sleep Science Center, Taipei Medical University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC


The present study examines the prevalence and characteristics of vegetarians in the Taiwanese elderly. We analysed data from the Elderly Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan (1999–2000), which used a multi-staged, stratified, clustered probability sampling design. Community-dwelling elderly (n 1071), aged 65 years and older, were included. Sociodemographic, anthropometric, lifestyle and metabolic variables, and eating habits were obtained through household interviews and health examinations. Nutrient intake was assessed using a 24 h dietary recall. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to examine factors significantly and independently associated with vegetarian status and to estimate the OR of the hypertension and the metabolic syndrome (MS) for vegetarians compared with omnivores. About 25 % of the Taiwanese elderly persons were vegetarians. Systolic pressure (OR 1·01, 95 % CI 1, 1·02, P = 0·038), female sex (OR 5·02, 95 % CI 3·11, 8·1, P < 0·001), smoking status (P = 0·034; current smoker (OR 0·45, 95 % CI 0·24, 0·85, P = 0·014)) and regular exercise (OR 1·87, 95 % CI 1·37, 2·56, P < 0·001) were independently associated with vegetarian status among Taiwanese elderly persons. Vegetarians consumed significantly lower daily total energy (P < 0·001), lower cholesterol (P = 0·002), a higher percentage of fat as PUFA (P = 0·022), higher Ca (P < 0·001) and higher crude fibres (P = 0·041) compared with omnivores. Between the two vegetarian diets, ovo- or lacto-vegetarian diets contained more beneficial micronutrients, such as K, Ca and Mg, and higher crude fibres than vegan diets (all P < 0·05). The likelihood of having hypertension and the MS was not significantly different between vegetarians and omnivores as examined by sex- or multivariate-adjusted logistic regression.

(Received August 09 2010)

(Revised December 09 2010)

(Accepted December 28 2010)

(Online publication March 09 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: P.-S. Tsai, fax +886 2 23772842, email


Abbreviations: BP, blood pressure; GLM, generalised linear model; JNC, Joint National Committee; MS, metabolic syndrome