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How does a vegan or vegetarian diet affect health?

26/2023, 05.12.2023

Start of trial for the largest study on plant-based diets in the German-speaking world

The pilot study for the COPLANT study started at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and other study centres at the beginning of December. This will lay the foundation for the largest study to date on plant-based diets in the German-speaking world. The pilot study will be used to fully test the procedures. These will then be evaluated and, if necessary, adapted and optimised. “In view of the growing interest in vegan and vegetarian diets, more scientifically reliable data is needed on the impact of a plant-based diet on the body,” says Professor Dr Cornelia Weikert, head of the COPLANT study at the BfR. “The COPLANT study aims to close data gaps and, therefore, put forward scientifically based dietary recommendations for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.” COPLANT stands for COhort on PLANT-based diets – a collaborative project between the BfR, the Max Rubner Institute (MRI), the Research Institute for Plant-based Nutrition (IFPE) and the Universities of Jena, Bonn, Heidelberg, Regensburg and Vienna. The Thünen Institute is responsible for the topic of sustainability. The study is being supported by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).

The aim of the COPLANT study is to gain new insights into the advantages and disadvantages of plant-based forms of nutrition. The term “plant-based diet” was coined recently and includes diets, which main components are purely of plant-based origin. The COPLANT study focuses on vegan (no animal products), vegetarian (no meat and fish, but dairy products and eggs), pescetarian (no meat, but fish) and omnivorous (mixed diet, including all possible animal products) diets.

Finding missing data

Although interest in vegan and vegetarian diets is constantly growing, there is currently little scientifically reliable data on plant-based diets. The results of earlier studies on the subject cannot necessarily be transferred to today’s forms of nutrition. For example, the range of vegan foods and meat substitutes, some of which are highly processed and high in sugar, fat and salt, has significantly increased in recent years. The current larger epidemiological projects in Germany include almost no vegans. Internationally, only limited data on plant-based diets – especially vegan diets – is available so far. COPLANT aims to supply missing data and thus enable evidence-based nutritional recommendations for plant-based nutrition.

Prevention and treatment of common diseases

In order to establish connections between diet and typical civilisation diseases such as e.g. type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, the plan is to follow up the study participants for at least 20 years. The collected data will be able to provide valuable insights for new prevention and therapy concepts.

More information about the COPLANT study is available on the BfR website

Frequently asked questions about the COPLANT study

BfR research perspective: The COPLANT study

BfR2Go article, “Popular, but largely unresearched”


About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. The BfR advises the Federal Government and the States (‘Laender’) on questions of food, chemicals and product safety. The BfR conducts independent research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.




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