Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Roy E. Beauchene

Committee Members

Ada Marie Campbell, Rossie L. Mason


The purposes of this study were to compare differences in bone density, height, and weight among female vegetarians and nonvegetarians and to determine significant relationships between the physical measurements and dietary intake of calories and protein.

After obtaining informed consent, complete data were collected on 43 vegetarians and 36 nonvegetarians. Height, weight, and bone density measurements were taken. Dietary information was obtained from 7-day dietary records and diet histories. Dietary supplements were also recorded.

Daily intakes of calories, protein, and fat were calculated by computer using the food values in USDA Handbook No. 8. Percent of the total calories coming from protein and fat were also computed. Bone density values of the phalanx 5-2 were determined using an instrument developed by the Department of Nutrition, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Bone mineral content of the radius was determined using a Norland-Cameron bone mineral analyzer.

The 2 groups of women showed remarkable similarities. Mean age of the vegetarians was 57.1 years while the nonvegetarians averaged 58.8 years of age. Mean height, weight, bone density index of the phalanx 5-2, and bone mineral content of the radius for the vegetarians were 63.46 inches, 137.7 pounds, 1.12 g/cc, and 0.68 g/cm², respectively. Corresponding values for the nonvegetarians were 63.49 inches, 141.6 pounds, 1.18 g/cc and 0.67 g/cm².

Dietary factors also showed similarities. Energy intake was 1600 kcal for the vegetarians and 1578 kcal for the nonvegetarians. Daily protein intake among the vegetarians was 64.6 g or 16.2% of total calories; that of the nonvegetarians was 66.6 g or 17.0%. Mean fat intakes of the 2 groups were significantly different (P <. 0.05). The vegetarians averaged 57.2 g or 31.7% of calories and the nonvegetarians averaged 62.6 g or 35.5% of calories as fat per day.

Adjusting mean values of the parameters studied to the mean age of both groups, 57.9 years, showed percent of calories coming from fat to be the parameter that differed significantly between the groups (P < 0.01). Placing the subjects into groups by 10-year age intervals showed a tendency for all physical measurements and dietary factors to decrease with age.

The per decade decrease in the parameters studied was calculated from regression equations. Height, bone density index of the phalanx 5-2, and bone mineral content of the radius decreased significantly (P < 0.01) with age. Fat intake and percent of the calories as fat also decreased significantly (P < 0.05). The simple regressions between the 2 groups did not differ significantly. In multiple regression, the slopes differed significantly (P < 0.05) for bone mineral content of the radius regressed on age, caloric intake, and protein intake holding any 2 of the variables constant. The slopes also differed significantly when bone mineral content of the radius was regressed on age holding weight, height; and the intakes of protein and energy constant.

Simple linear regression showed are to be significantly negatively related (P < 0.01) to bone mineral content of the radius of both groups. Positive relationships were found among both groups between bone mineral content of the radius and weight, height, and protein intake. Among the vegetarians there was also a positive relationship between bone mineral content of the radius and total caloric intake, fat intake and percent of calories coming from fat. Multiple regression analysis showed age to be the factor with the greatest effect on bone density. Significant negative relationships between bone density and age were found in both groups. In the nonvegetarians, positive relationships were obtained between bone mineral content and protein intake, holding age, weight, height, and caloric intake constant; and between bone mineral content and weight when age, protein intake, caloric intake, and height were held constant.

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