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The study objective was to compare dietary patterns in their relationship with metabolic risk factors (MRFs) and the metabolic syndrome (MetS).Cross-sectional analysis of 773 subjects (mean age 60 years) from the Adventist Health Study 2 was performed. Dietary pattern was derived from a food frequency questionnaire and classified as vegetarian (35%), semi-vegetarian (16%), and nonvegetarian (49%). ANCOVA was used to determine associations between dietary pattern and MRFs (HDL, triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure, and waist circumference) while controlling for relevant cofactors. Logistic regression was used in calculating odds ratios (ORs) for MetS.A vegetarian dietary pattern was associated with significantly lower means for all MRFs except HDL (P for trend < 0.001 for those factors) and a lower risk of having MetS (OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.30–0.64, P < 0.001) when compared with a nonvegetarian dietary pattern.A vegetarian dietary pattern is associated with a more favorable profile of MRFs and a lower risk of MetS. The relationship persists after adjusting for lifestyle and demographic factors.