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How do vegan and vegetarian diets affect health?

07/2024, 09.04.2024

Largest study on plant-based nutrition in German-speaking countries begins

Starting signal for the largest study on plant-based nutrition in the German-speaking world: today, Silvia Bender, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), together with Professor Andreas Hensel, President of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), welcomed the first COPLANT study participants at the Berlin-Charlottenburg study centre in the presence of the study leaders from the BfR and Max Rubner Institute (MRI). "We want to investigate how plant-based diets affect health and close data gaps," says Professor Andreas Hensel. "The results of earlier studies are only partially transmissible to today's eating habits. For example, the range of highly processed vegan foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt has increased significantly in recent years," adds Professor Tanja Schwerdtle, Vice President of the BfR.

COPLANT stands for COhort on PLANT-based diets - a cooperative project between the BfR, the MRI, the Research Institute for Plant-based Nutrition (IFPE) and the Universities of Jena, Bonn, Heidelberg, Regensburg and Vienna. The project is supported by the BMEL. The Thünen Institute is involved in the topic of sustainability. Together with its partners, the BfR is looking for around 6,000 people aged between 18 and 69 who would like to take part. "With the German government's nutrition strategy, we want to make healthy food in Germany easier available for everyone and strengthen plant-based nutrition concepts. “For me, that means a varied and balanced diet with a high percentage of seasonal and regional fruit and vegetables, high-fibre cereal products, pulses and nuts. Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy good, healthy and sustainable nutrition - and also vegetarian or vegan if they want to," said State Secretary Silvia Bender.  "To do this, we need more reliable data on health, ecological, social and economical benefits or possible risks of plant-based nutrition. The COPLANT study aims to close these gaps. I am very excited about the results and would like to thank the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment for this important initiative."

Interest in vegan and vegetarian nutrition is growing - especially among younger people. However, there is hardly any scientifically reliable data on the effects of today's plant-based diets on the body. The COPLANT study aims to close data gaps and provide scientifically based dietary recommendations for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. The COPLANT study includes 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.

What is being analysed?

Among other things, the researchers are investigating how the individual diets affect body composition and bone health. Do plant-based diets differ from a mixed diet in terms of the intake of undesirable substances? Which vitamins and minerals are sufficiently absorbed and which may be deficient? What happens to the metabolism when animal-based foods are completely avoided? The researchers also want to find out what ecological, social and economical effects the diets have and how sustainable they are overall.

Data collection via app

The nutrition of all participants is recorded in detail on different days using an app specially customised for the study. Unlike in previous studies, the consumption of novel vegan and vegetarian foods can also be comprehensively determined. In addition, biomarkers in blood and urine will be examined to determine whether the respective diet is associated with a different intake of impurities (contaminants) such as heavy metals, mould toxins or other undesirable substances. The submission of a stool sample makes it possible to identify correlations between the different diets and the intestinal bacteria.

Take part!

Every participant is important for the success of the study. The more people who take part, the more meaningful the results will be. Anyone who takes part is therefore making an important contribution to research in the field of plant-based nutrition. You also receive information about your own state of health, for example by measuring your hand grip strength. This provides information about muscle strength and physical performance. Body composition analyses show how high the muscle and fat content is and an ultrasound scan of the heel provides information on bone health. The study team also carries out a complete blood count and measures blood sugar and blood lipids. All information on participation is available at

Further information on the COPLANT study

Information on participation in the study

Questions and answers about the COPLANT study

About the BfR


The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically inde-pendent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry for Nutrition and Agriculture (BMEL). It advises the Federal Government and the German federal states ("Laender") on issues of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely closely related to its assessment tasks.



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