An (Apparently) Intelligent Diet

by Ashley Solomon

First, full disclosure: While I did have a stint (a several-year stint, but a stint nonetheless) of forgoing meat, I am no  longer a vegetarian. For several reasons, not the least of which is laziness, I chose to resume eating meat when I succumbed to the power of a chicken wing during college. My personal history aside, I stumbled across some interesting research that might just make me reconsider the fish, fowl, and farm animals (needed another “f”, sorry) that I consume.

According to researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK (Gale, Sandon, Katz, 2006), vegetarianism is linked to a high IQ. So, what those pesky vegetarians have been claiming all along – that they are sooo smart – might really be the case. But what comes first, the chicken or the tofu?

It would seem that smarter people tend to choose a vegetarian lifestyle (rather than vegetarianism actually making us smarter, though some evidence is building for that as well). Why? The researchers conducted this study over a period of 20 years, measuring the IQ scores of over 8,000 people at various points in childhood. They found that the average IQ score of meat-eaters at age 10 to be 100.9, while vegetarians boasted IQ scores of 109.1. For those interested in such things, this difference is considered large and statistically significant. Also of note, there was no difference between the IQ scores of those who claimed to be more strict vegetarians from those who reported eating chicken and fish. (Hooray for my chicken wings!)

According to Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, it makes sense that smarter people would be vegetarian, based on his HypothesisHe suggests that vegetarianism is a “novel value” and a luxury that did not exist in the days of food scarcity of our ancestors. Kanazawa points out that vegetarians would not have survived in those times and thus would not have become our ancestors. Hence, vegetarianism is a product of our current abundance. And who has the most abundance? Intelligent people.

The Southampton data seem to support this notion, particularly by the fact that male vegetarians tend to have higher IQs than female vegetarians. Kanazawa notes that in prehistoric days, men were the hunters and women were the gatherers. To completely eliminate meat from the male diet, according to Kanazawa, is even more unnatural and novel than from the female diet (women are 60% more likely to be vegetarians, by the way), and thus men would have to be even smarter to do so. Interesting thought.

So while we’re on the “a vegetarian lifestyle is a smart choice” kick, I thought I’d also present you with some other research that supports a vegetarian lifestyle. This is not to suggest that this choice is for everyone (it’s not for me at this moment, though I do consider it often), but to offer some, hopefully, helpful information on going meat-free.

Benefits of Going Veggie

Nutrition/Health: Vegetarians tend to have lower intakes of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein (the bad stuff, when not controlled). They then have, on average, high intakes of dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin C and E, and magnesium (the good stuff, usually). This translates to less risk of heart disease (risk for the average male drops from 50% to 15% by cutting out meat) and less incidence of cancer (women who eat meat daily are four times as likely to develop breast cancer as those who don’t). Ultimately, this translates to a longer life. And it’s not just me saying it. Loma Linda University reports that vegetarians live, on average, seven years longer than meat-eaters, while vegans live 15 years longer.

Economic: Going meat-free means more money in the bank for both you and our country, according to the Vegetarian Times. Forgoing meat, chicken, and fish and replacing these items with animal-friendly foods cuts food costs by $4000 annually per household. That’s a lot of tofu… On a bigger scale, some estimate that the U.S. spend $60 to $120 billion annually treating illnesses (e.g. heart disease and food poisoning) that are related to a diet heavy in animal products.

Moral/Spiritual: First, some research indicates that a diet low in animal-products contributes to men being less aggressive and domineering. So, pack on the veggies if you want people to like you. Further, many see vegetarianism as the socially responsible choice – it takes much less land and energy to produce non-meat products, and it reduces waste and air pollution significantly. On a spiritual level, Buddhists claim that eating meat makes us part of the killing process and thereby leads us further from enlightenment. Not in your belief system? Then refer back to the four grand you’ll save on soy beans…

There are many, many more benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle, with this just being a small sampling. You’ll have to decide is right for you. However, your choice may just tell us a little something about your IQ…


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One Comment to “An (Apparently) Intelligent Diet”

  1. Sorry I just can’t buy into the whole vegetarian lifestyle. And the whole vegan thing is just way too out there! Maybe that is why I am not very smart!

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