Are Vegans Smarter Than Omnivores?


When I first heard this question I thought it was silly.

There are smart and dumb vegans, just like there are smart and dumb omnivores.

But what about on average?

There’s some research that I’ll go over shortly that suggests that vegetarians may in fact be smarter on average than omnivores.

How IQ Predicts Being Vegetarian

This hasn’t been studied too much because it’s hard to study, and frankly not that important.

But it’s interesting.

I came across this study that looked at data from the 1970 British cohort study of 8,170 men and women.

The end conclusion was: 

Higher scores for IQ in childhood are associated with an increased likelihood of being a vegetarian as an adult.

This study didn’t look specifically at vegans, but just at self-reported vegetarians. Note that some of those still ate fish or chicken on occasion (a lot of self-reported vegetarians do, I don’t know why).

Regardless, they found that after accounting for social class, academic qualifications, and sex, children with a higher IQ at age 10 were 1.38 times more likely to be vegetarian at age 30.

So it’s not that going vegetarian made them smarter, but that smarter people in general are more likely to go vegetarian.

Some caveats:

  • This is a single study
  • It was done nearly 50 years ago
  • It was done in Britain, results don’t necessarily apply elsewhere

Why Might Smarter People Go Vegetarian/Vegan?

The study authors were unable to identify specific reasons why a higher IQ as a child would predict going vegetarian later in life.

We can speculate; Perhaps smarter people are able to contemplate the ethics of eating animals.

My initial guess was that there might be a link between IQ and empathy, but studies don’t seem to support that.

It would have been interesting if the researchers also measured the emotional intelligence (EQ) of the subjects, since there is a strong correlation between EQ and empathy.

Regardless, we don’t know for now, but I’ll keep an eye out for new related research.

In summary: A limited amount of research suggests that smarter people may gravitate to being vegetarian, but it’s far from definite, and the reasons why are not clear.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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