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FAQ of the BfR from 11 March 2022

The COPLANT study is the largest study on plant-based nutrition in the German-speaking world to date. From April 2024, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), together with 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, University of Vienna - would like to recruit around 6,000 people aged 18-69 for the study. The BfR has summarised the most important questions about the COPLANT study.

What is COPLANT?

COPLANT stands for COhort on PLANT-based diets. With around 6,000 participants, COPLANT is the largest planned cohort study on plant-based nutrition in the German-speaking world to date. People who follow a vegan (no animal products), vegetarian (no meat or fish, but dairy produce and eggs), pescetarian (no meat, but fish) or omnivorous (both plant and animal products) diet are compared with each other. In order to provide impetus for the review of existing and the development of new dietary recommendations, the study examines the following questions, among others: Which vitamins and minerals are sufficiently absorbed (or not)? Does the respective diet increase the amount of heavy metals, mould toxins or other contaminants entering the body? What happens to the metabolism if the consumption of meat and sausage or even animal-based foods is completely avoided? How sustainable are the diets under consideration?


Interest in vegan and vegetarian nutrition is increasing - especially among younger people. The aspect of sustainability also plays an important role here. Nevertheless, there is currently little scientifically reliable data available on vegan and vegetarian nutrition. Older studies on plant-based nutrition are hardly comparable with 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, is increasing. The current major epidemiological projects in Germany include almost no vegans. In addition, the nutritional survey instruments used here do not do justice to a plant-based nutrition. There is also little international data available on vegan nutrition. This means that it is currently almost impossible to categorise the health effects of a plant-based diet 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 change this, close existing data gaps and thus enable evidence-based nutritional recommendations for a plant-based and sustainable diet.

What is the aim of the COPLANT study?

The aim of the COPLANT study is to investigate the links between plant-based diets and health status as well as various socially relevant effects. The goal is to derive recommendations for a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

What is being analysed?

The following investigations are being carried out in the COPLANT study:

Nutrition survey using an app (weighing log on at least three days) and surveys on various topics

  • Determination of body composition via bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA)
  • Measurement of height, body weight and waist circumference
  • Determination of bone density and bone health using ultrasound (Broadband Ultrasound Attenuation, BUA for short)
  • Blood pressure
  • Physical activity
  • Manual force
  • Basic laboratory programme, at least once (fasting blood, 24-hour urine collection, stool sample)

Note: You should allow around three hours in total for the examinations and interviews at the study centre.

How many study centres are there? Where are the study centres located?

There is a total of eight study centres:

  1. German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Berlin
  2. Research Institute for Plant-Based Nutrition, Giessen
  3. Friedrich Schiller University, Jena
  4. Max Rubner Institute, Karlsruhe
  5. Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University, Bonn
  6. Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg
  7. University of Regensburg
  8. University of Vienna

Who can take part?

People who are between 18 and 69 years old at the time of recruitment and have been pursuing one of the following diets for at least one year:

  • vegan: no animal products
  • vegetarian: no meat and fish, but dairy produce and eggs
  • pescetarian: no meat, but fish
  • omnivorous: both plant and animal products (mixed diet)

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are also welcome to take part in the study.

The following criteria must also be met:

  • Health insurance must be available

Why should I take part?

Every single person who takes part is important for the success of the study. The more people participate, the more meaningful the results will be. You can therefore make an important contribution to research in the field of plant-based nutrition. If you wish, the results of selected tests and blood values will be communicated to you in writing and in an understandable way after your study appointment. This will provide you with valuable information about your health situation. For example, by measuring your hand grip strength: how strong are your hands? Hand strength provides information about the state of your muscle strength and physical performance. By analysing your body composition, you can find out how high your muscle or fat percentage is and learn about your bone health using ultrasound on your heel. We also draw up a complete blood count and measure blood sugar and blood lipids.

Do I get money for my participation?

The study is financed by public funds, so we cannot pay a fee for your participation. We appreciate your commitment and offer you an expense allowance. In addition, you may keep the kitchen scales for keeping the nutrition logs.

How can I take part in the study?

If you are interested in participating in the study, please contact a study centre of your choice. You can find the contact details here.

Who is funding the study?

The study is financed from public funds and the study centres' own contributions. The Federal Ministry of Nutrition and Agriculture (BMEL) is in favour of the study concept and supports the overall study coordination including data management and quality assurance as well as the central biosample storage.

How does the COPLANT study guarantee data protection?

Your data is subject to data protection in all phases of the study and will be treated confidentially. In the study, your personal data (name and address) and the data collected during the interviews and examinations are stored separately. The data collected during the interviews and examinations are not stored with your name and address, but are coded with a number (so-called pseudonymisation). Only selected employees of the respective study centre have access to the personal data. The scientific analyses are carried out using the pseudonymised data without exception.


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