A reader sent me an interesting Reuters report this morning on a study published online in the British Medical Journal. The money quote:

A British study of more them 8,000 men and women aged 30 whose IQs had been measured when they were 10, showed that the higher the IQ, the greater the odds of being a vegetarian.
For each 15-point rise in IQ scores in the study, the likelihood of being a vegetarian rose by 38 percent. Even after adjusting to factors such as social class and education, the link was still consistent.

At first blush, my thought would be that since smarter people read more and are better informed, it stands to reason that they might believe that a vegetarian diet would be better for them and therefor decide to follow one. Of course, this reasoning would apply only to people smart enough to keep up with the mainstream hogwash; the exceptionally smart people would, of course, see through it all to the next level of knowledge and be followers of non-vegetarian, low-carb diet.
I haven’t had a chance to dig into the paper to see what is really going on here, but if this statistic holds up, I suspect it’s nature’s way of regressing to the mean.


  1. Well, the higher your IQ, the more like you are going to get an advanced education. Studies show that those with more education are more likely to be healthy. Therefore, the higher your IQ, the more likely you are to be healthy. Since vegetarians are more likely to be healthy (not because of their diet but because they are more health conscious overall) than omnivores, its certainly possible that a correlation between IQ and vegetarianism would be found. If only we could pair vegetarians with paleo dieters, then we would win hands down, but alas, all those other omnivores are bringing us down.
    Besides, in 1491 all the people in the world with the highest IQ’s thought the world was flat.

  2. And the problem is, their IQ will be so low from the vegetarian eating that they won’t realize how it’s harming them.
    I have a theory: maybe if we hit them on the head with something very heavy, the information will kind of rearrange itself and they’ll stop being vegetarian? The problem is that they’ll be so weak from all that bad food, they’ll probably end up dying from being hit by a mere 45 pounds plate.
    Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit.
    I’ve done my hatred part of the day, from now on it’s all love and compassion.
    Hi Max–
    That’s what I mean: it’s nature’s way of regressing to the mean.

  3. I don’t care how you massage the data, at least 90% of the people in that study with above average intelligence chose NOT to become veggies.
    Hi George–
    Well put!

  4. Sometimes a high level of intelligence is a dangerous thing. Very smart people often have to analyze everything to death and get so caught up in the minutiae that sometimes they can’t see what’s in front of their faces. Regardless of whatever veggie propaganda may say, when I look at my vegetarian friends and their overall health (or lack thereof) and compare this to my carnivore friends, I have my answer.
    Hi Paul–
    Right you are.  It’s called not being able to see the forest for the trees.

  5. My first response got tuncated I think. Here’s the full text:
    “At first blush, my thought would be that since smarter people read more and are better informed, it stands to reason that they might believe that a vegetarian diet would be better for them and therefor decide to follow one.”
    I think you’re on the money here, but the same would hold for any person who’s health conscious. Those who are health conscious and smart are going to read and research. That goes for low-carb, low-fat, low-calories, vegetarian, even vegan.
    Hi Victoria–
    You’re right.  That’s why the extremely intelligent opt for the low-carb diet.  They have the ability not only to read, but to read critically and understand.

  6. Dr. Mike:
    I will do my own study since I am administrator to the Chair of a university department, that consists of 20 Professors in several disciplines. Needless to say, they are all PhD’s in Math, Science, English Language Arts, Music, Phys Ed, etc.
    Since I have to order catering for lunch meetings predominantly, the diet breakdown is as follows:
    Out of 20:
    1 is a vegan
    2 are vegetarians who eat cheese and eggs
    1 is a vegetarian who eats cheese, eggs and fish
    16 are omnivores and eat meat
    So according to this, we can draw whatever conclusions we want 😛
    Hi Hellistile–
    Thanks for the data.  Since all these people are probably pretty smart, and 4 out of 20 are vegetarians (20%), it would seem to confirm the study since the ratio of vegetarians to non-vegetarian is much less than 20% in the general population.  But just because smart people choose to be vegetarians doesn’t mean that being a vegetarian is smart.  Those of us who are exceptionally smart know it isn’t:)

  7. “I haven’t had a chance to dig into the paper to see what is really going on here, but if this statistic holds up, I suspect it’s nature’s way of regressing to the mean.”
    Hahahahahahahaha !
    This is the nicest way I’ve ever read that people who become vegetarians deserve the Darwin award !
    Hi LC–
    I’m glad someone appreciates subtle humor.

  8. I was hoping you would have responded to this “study”. The article I read stated that they didn’t do any controls for environmental factors such as parents being vegetarian. So, it might be a bit suspect.
    I tried vegetarian for a while and it was great for my allergies, but when I gained fat, lost muscle, and generally felt like garbage, I quit. IF has the same effect on my allergies and makes me feel good so IF and low carb it is.
    Hi hap–
    I pulled the study, and it’s on my desk.  I just can’t bring myself to plunge into it when there are so many more interesting and certainly more important studies to read.  Maybe sometime though…
    I’m glad to hear that the IF/low-carb combo has solved your problems.

  9. In addition to what hap suggests, did they also control for religious affiliation? Many (most?) Hindus are vegetarian and if this study was done in the UK where there are a significant amount of them, that might have had an affect.
    I tend to think, though that one’s ability to score a high ranking on an IQ test has no bearing on common sense, nor on dietary predilections. I know plenty of smart vegetarians and smart low-carbers, as well as a fair share of what I consider to be not the smartest in both groups. Why someone chooses a particular diet has only partially to do with innate intelligence. The only assumption I have is that those who aren’t very smart usually will eat anything and everything, including lots of junk, sweets, transfats, etc. However, I know a lot of people I consider smart who do the exact same thing!
    Part of this I think is based on the simple confusion from years of varying advice, scare tactics, and not wanting to restrict ones self from “goodies.” I’m sure there’s also the addictive quality of different foods that play a part in keeping even the smartest people making poor dietary choices despite what they know to be bad…
    Hi Levi–
    I don’t think they controlled for religious affiliation.  That would be a good thing to look at.
    I agree with you.  I’ve seen some very smart people make some horrible dietary choices.

  10. Vegetarian diets are definitely healthier. But vegan diets are even better. When you get rid of all the foods that have some form of animal in them, you also get rid of any extra cholesterol that is found in animal derived diets. Our bodies naturally create all the cholesterol we need. Anything beyond that is extra and that’s what causes all the clogged arteries and freakin heart attacks in the U.S. There are numerous reasons as to why a plant based diet is healthier. Unfortunately plant based diets are not given much of a chance in the U.S. But if you step back and take a look at other countries that don’t eat as much meat as we do, you’ll find that those people are much healthier and live longer. Too many people are stuck on the old ways and beliefs and they refuse to look at the facts that lean towards promoting a vegetarian diet. So before you all keep criticizing vegetarians, how about you read up on it a little more. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s not all about the nutrition aspect of it. It’s also about taking a look at how all the factory farms and such are harming our environment. And being able to recognize that it’s inhumane how the animals are being treated. Animals think and can feel pain just like we can. All that I ask is that you read up more on all of it and really take a look at it. Being vegetarian is better for your health, the environment, and is more humane.
    “Vegetarian diets are definitely healthier.” Not!
    I’ve read on it plenty.  Thanks for the comment.

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