There has been much interest in the public press about ‘Flexitarianism’.  Nutritional Insight identified a gap in that few scientific articles had been published explaining exactly what this is and how it relates to health.  So, Emma wrote an article on ‘Flexitarianism and Health’, published in  the journal Frontiers in Nutrition which has now amassed over 8,000 views in the first quarter of the year – one of their most viewed publications.

So, What exactly is ‘Flexitarianism’?

Well, ‘Flexitarianism’ is a phrase that has been emerging in scientific and media circles recently.  It was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014 and is actually a portmanteau of ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian’.  So, basically, this is someone who eats a primarily vegetarian diet and occasionally eats meat or fish, though there are some variations in what that ‘occasionally’ constitutes.

Why the interest in this?

Flexitarian diets are thought to be more achievable than vegan or plant-based diets, whilst striking a balance when it comes to the amounts of meat eaten.  There have been rising concerns about growing and ageing populations and how to feed these with sustainable protein sources.  Flexitarian diets offer the potential to enjoy a range of protein sources in balanced amounts.

Hitting the middle-ground.

So, the flexitarian diet seems to recognise the fact that meat in our diets is a valuable source of macro and micronutrients.  This dietary approach also considers the ethical and sustainability sides – such as the need to avoid intensification, improve animal welfare and eat a range of protein sources that help to dilute environmental stresses.

Should we all go ‘flexi’?

Some may benefit from going ‘flexi’ more than others it seems.  For example, men in midlife and older age are more likely to over consume meat, so would probably benefit from a flexitarian diet the most.  This dietary approach means that meat can still be enjoyed but within recommended daily amounts.

…and what next?

Official definitions in terms of what constitutes a Flexitarian Diet are now needed, as there are currently some variations in the terms of use.  Future studies looking at vegetarian or vegan diets and their implications on health or the environment should also now start to consider the rising trend of  ‘Flexitarianism’.

If you would like to read the full article, please follow the link below:

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnut.2016.00055/full

Emma will be acting as Topic Editor for Frontiers in Nutrition for a special edition on Flexitarianism.  If you have undertaken any research in this area or would like to make a scientific contribution please e-mail her at: emma@nutritional-insight.co.uk