How do vegetarian and vegan diets affect our health and what are their advantages and disadvantages? This is what the large-scale Coplant study wants to investigate, which started today in Berlin with the examination of the first of a total of 6,000 test subjects.

Interest in vegan and vegetarian diets is growing, especially among younger people, according to the study website. “However, there is so far hardly any scientifically reliable data on the effects of today’s plant-based diets on the body.” The study aims to close this data gap and develop recommendations for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

The study is a cooperation project between the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), the Max Rubner Institute, the Research Institute for Plant-Based Nutrition (IFPE) and the universities of Jena, Bonn, Heidelberg, Regensburg and Vienna. Coplant stands for “Cohort on plant-based diets” (German: cohort study on plant-based diets).

According to the BfR, there have been studies on the topic in the past, but these cannot necessarily be transferred to today’s diets. “For example, the range of vegan foods and meat substitute products, some of which are highly processed and high in sugar, fat and salt, has increased significantly in recent years,” writes the institute.

Study designed to last at least 20 years

Women and men between the ages of 18 and 69 take part in the study. They either eat a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian diet (no meat, but fish) or eat both plant and animal products. Among other things, they have to answer questions about their diet and health and are physically examined several times every few weeks. At home, they must fill out a nutritional record and collect stool samples. This should provide information about which vitamins and minerals are sufficiently absorbed or not. The first test subject’s blood pressure, heart rate and hand strength were to be measured this Tuesday.

According to BfR information, the duration of the study is at least 20 years. The institute does not expect the first results until recruitment has been completed in 2026 or 2027 at the earliest.