According to a study, being vegetarian could be due to our genes.
Scientists found that three of these are “strongly associated” with the ability to stick to a strict plant-based diet, and 31 are “potentially associated.”
Several of these, including two of the top three, are involved in metabolism.
The researchers suspect that meat contains lipid components – fatty compounds that are crucial for metabolism – that some people need.
But those whose genetics favor vegetarianism produce the same lipids internally – meaning they can easily avoid meat.
Prof Nabeel Yaseen from Northwestern University in the US said: “Are all people capable of maintaining a strict vegetarian diet in the long term?”
“This is a question that has not been seriously studied.”
“It seems that more people would like to eat a vegetarian diet than actually do, and we think it’s because people are missing something anchored.”
He added: “One area where plant-based products differ from meat is complex lipids.
“I suspect that meat contains lipid components that some people need.
“And perhaps people whose genetics favor vegetarianism are able to synthesize these components endogenously.
“However, at this time it is merely speculation and much more work needs to be done to understand the physiology of vegetarianism.”
The team examined genetic data from more than 5,300 strict vegetarians.