Depressed vegetarians twice as often as meat eaters: new study
Eat green and feel blue?
Vegetarians experience depressive episodes twice as often as meat eaters, according to a new study by Brazilian researchers published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
There is a “positive association between the prevalence of depressive episodes and a meatless diet,” the study states.
Scientists set out to study the potential association between a meatless diet and depression in adults, by interviewing 14,216 participants aged 35 to 74 for six months. They were assessed using the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised instrument, a tool used to diagnose common mental health disorders. Vegetarians were found to have twice as many depressive episodes as meat eaters over the same period, even when variables such as smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and intake in micronutrients were taken into account.
« Depressive episodes are more common in people who do not eat meat, regardless of socioeconomic factors and lifestyle, » the study concludes. “Nutrient deficiencies do not explain this association. The nature of the association remains unclear and longitudinal data are needed to clarify the causal relationship.
A number of other studies suggest a distinct correlation between mood and food. In 2017, researchers looked at the diets of people with major depressive symptoms and found that people with depression who ate a diet high in whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and plant foods were four times more likely to be in remission than those who ate ultra-processed foods.
Another study, published in 2019, found a correlation between a Mediterranean diet with fish oil supplements and a reduction in depression.
While eating animal protein may be associated with happiness, plant-based diets have long been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
« For the protection of heart health, your diet should focus on quality plant foods, » Ambika Satija of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition said in a separate report, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up steak and chicken wings altogether.
Satija said, « It is possible to benefit from reducing your intake of animal-based foods without completely eliminating them from your diet. »