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COPLANT stands for COhort on PLANT-based diets. This is the largest cohort study on plant-based nutrition in the German-speaking world to date - a project of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), the Max Rubner Institute (MRI), the Research Institute for Plant-based Nutrition (IFPE) and five university partners: Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University Bonn, Ruprecht Karls University Heidelberg, University of Regensburg and University of Vienna. From April 2024, around 6,000 people aged 18-69 will be recruited throughout Germany and in Vienna (Austria) to take part in the study.

The term "plant-based nutrition" has been coined in recent years and includes diets whose main components are purely plant-based - including vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, oils, (wholemeal) cereals and pulses. Depending on the diet, dairy produce, fish, seafood and eggs are also included.

The following diets are subject of the COPLANT study:

  • vegan (no animal products)
  • vegetarian (no meat and fish, but dairy produce and eggs)
  • pescetarian (no meat, but fish)
  • omnivorous (mixed diet including all possible animal products)

The aim is to gain new insights into the advantages and disadvantages of plant-based diets. For example, it is being investigated which vitamins and minerals are sufficiently absorbed and which are not. What happens to the metabolism when animal-based foods are completely avoided? How do the individual diets affect body composition and bone health? Do plant-based diets differ from a mixed diet in terms of intake of contaminants or other undesirable substances? The scientists also want to examine the ecological, social and economic effects of the four diets as well as their overall sustainability.

Closing data gaps

Although interest in vegan and vegetarian diets is constantly growing, there is currently little scientifically reliable data on plant-based diets. Results from earlier studies on the subject are not necessarily transmissible to today's diets. For example, the range of vegan foods and meat substitutes, some of which are highly processed and high in sugar, fat and salt, has increased significantly in recent years.

The current major epidemiological projects in Germany include almost no vegans. In addition, the nutritional survey instruments used here do not do justice to plant-based nutrition. Internationally, there is also little data available on plant-based diets - especially vegan nutrition. As a result, it is currently almost impossible to categorise these diets in terms of risk prevention and early detection. Findings on the sustainability effects of different diets are only available in individual facets, but not in the overall view of all relevant dimensions of health, environment, society and economy. COPLANT aims to close existing data gaps and thus enable evidence-based dietary recommendations for a plant-based and sustainable nutrition.

Special features of data collection

The nutrition of all participants is recorded in detail on different days using an app specially customised for the study. Unlike in previous studies, the consumption of novel vegan and vegetarian foods can also be comprehensively determined. In addition, biomarkers in blood and urine are examined to determine whether the respective diet is associated with a different intake of contaminants such as heavy metals, mould toxins or other undesirable substances. The submission of a stool sample makes it possible to identify correlations between the different diets and the intestinal bacteria. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers can also take part in the study. In addition, the BfR and MRI study centres plan to offer study participation to the children of study participants. In addition, sustainability-relevant aspects of dietary behaviour will be analysed.

Prevention and treatment of common diseases

In order to be able to assess the links between diet and typical common diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, it is planned to follow up the study participants for at least 20 years. The data collected can provide valuable insights for new prevention and therapy concepts.

COPLANT in figures

  • Eight study centres (German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (Berlin), Research Institute for Plant-Based Nutrition (Giessen), Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Max Rubner Institute (Karlsruhe), Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University Bonn, Ruprecht Karls University Heidelberg, University of Regensburg and University of Vienna.
  • Approximately 6,000 participants aged 18-69 with vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian or mixed diets (800 per study centre, 200 per diet).
  • 20 years of follow-up


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