Vegetarians twice as likely to be depressed than meat eaters, study finds

Emma Guinness

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Vegetarians twice as likely to be depressed than meat eaters, study finds

Featured Image Credit: Greg Balfour Evans / Erika Tanith Davey / Alamy Stock Photo

Veggie food might be giving meat a run for its money in terms of popularity these days, but there's now a serious argument in favour of a more carnivorous diet.

And no, it's about a lot more than never eating lacklustre vegan bacon again or refusing to pay a few quid more for a veggie burger.

It turns out that if you've banished meat from your diet - for whatever reason - it could be having an unexpected effect on your mental health.

The discovery was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, and it involved a whopping 14,216 people in Brazil, aged between 35 and 74, to see if vegetarianism had a relation to depression.

The participants were asked whether or not they adhered to a meatless diet and then the study took a look at any instances of depression they were experiencing.

A new study found that vegetarians were more likely to be depressed. Credit: Alamy / Tetra Images, LLC
A new study found that vegetarians were more likely to be depressed. Credit: Alamy / Tetra Images, LLC

Because a person's mental health can be affected by a lot of factors, six months up to the study, various possible influences including physical activity and substance use were taken into account.

It found that 'vegetarianism appears to be associated with a high prevalence of depressive episodes', which are 'independent of socioeconomic, lifestyle factors and nutrient deficiencies'.

Yes, you read that right, apparently the fact that veggie 'meat' doesn't taste quite the same has got nothing to do with it.

However, other experts have hit out at this claim that the depressive episodes are independent of nutritional deficiencies. They've asserted that meat contains important nutrients that can affect the quality of a person's brain function - hence why it's so important that veggies make sure they get certain nutrients like B12 elsewhere.

Monique Richard, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson, told Healthline: "Whenever an individual excludes an entire food group, in this case, protein and fat sources, and does not replace it with equally nutritionally adequate options, it will affect a variety of systemic and physiological functions such as cognitive health.

"If an individual does not have an adequate intake of nutrients such as B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein, certain enzymes and proteins may be compromised, altering specific pathways in the body.

"This could affect mood, anxiety, memory, perceived stress, sleep, etc."

A plant-based diet can cause nutritional deficiencies. Credit: Alamy / JSMimages
A plant-based diet can cause nutritional deficiencies. Credit: Alamy / JSMimages

That's why Richard said that ultimately the results of the study should not be taken too seriously until more research has been conducted.

So you can keep your plant-based bacon for now.

"Other factors that would be important to assess would be if the person felt isolated or disconnected from others related to their dietary choice," Richard said.

"Is there a personal, religious, or moral consideration for the choice that may also be contributing to these feelings and state of mind?"

Meat can improve certain brain functions. Credit: Alamy /  tommaso altamura
Meat can improve certain brain functions. Credit: Alamy / tommaso altamura

However, it wasn't just Richard who said more information was needed, so too did researchers.

They concluded that while 'depressive episodes are more prevalent in individuals who do not eat meat, independently of socioeconomic and lifestyle factors', the 'nature of the association remains unclear.'

That's why they ultimately called for 'longitudinal data' to 'clarify' the relationship between vegetarianism and depression.

And so the battle between meat and plant-based diets continues.

Topics: News, Food and Drink

Emma Guinness
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