Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type





Nutrition and Food Science

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa Gaetke


Kentucky has a health crisis and most of the causes can be linked to diet, smoking and physical activity. Vegetarian and vegan diets have numerous benefits for many diet related health problems such as obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. There has been limited research on vegetarians and vegans in the United States and none in Kentucky. This study used an anonymous electronic survey to examine the different characteristics, behaviors, experiences and opinions of adult vegetarians and vegans in Kentucky. Results were compared to statistical data reported on the general population of Kentucky. Calculated body mass index (BMI) from self-reported height and weight showed 36% of vegetarians and 21% of vegans to be overweight or obese compared to 67% of the general Kentucky population being overweight or obese. The impact on BMI due to type of plant based diet (vegetarian or vegan) was found to be of greater significance (p=0.0030) than that of exercise. Reports from both groups indicated that they may be underserved by health care professionals. These findings have important implications for dietitians, dietetics education programs and health care providers concerned with high rates of obesity and chronic diseases.