A new study on diet preference in Saudi Arabia found that the prevalence of vegan diets in a population sample of this Middle Eastern country was 4.7% and vegetarian diets was 7.8%. The research, authored by Mohammed Al-Mohaithef and published in the National Library of Medicine under the title “Prevalence of vegan/vegetarian diet and eating behaviour among Saudi adults and its correlation with body mass index: A cross-sectional study,” studied a cross-sectional sample of 1,143 Saudi adults. 

They were recruited in shopping malls and they filled out an online questionnaire containing questions on demographics, type of diet, eating behaviour and physical activity. As the sample does not appear to be randomly selected, and we do not know if there was any distinction between vegans and plant-based people, we cannot conclude that around 5% of the Saudi Arabian population is vegan.

The study also found that 79.6% of the vegans surveyed were women, 77.8% were between 18 and 30 years of age, and 85.2% were graduates. The number one reason to become vegan was animal ethics (37%), followed by weight control (31.5%) and better health (18.5%). None of the vegans in the study had been vegan for more than four years, and 72.9% had been vegan for less than one year. A significantly higher proportion of participants on a vegan diet selected ‘Never’ for eating fast food and fried food as well as for drinking fizzy or soft drinks. A positive moderate correlation was found between BMI and eating fast-food and fried food, drinking fizzy or soft drinks with meals, and eating canned food.

The authors concluded the following: “Our study shows that vegan and vegetarian diet have gained access into the lifestyle of Saudi adults with a prevalence of 4.7 and 7.8%, respectively. Participants on vegetarian diet showed better lifestyle like higher physical activity level, higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, dairy products and low intake of fast-foods and fizzy beverages.”

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.