Latest research suggests that a lack of meat in your diet can lead to depressive episodes.

Does a plant-based diet put you at greater risk of depression? Experts have beef with the latest research

  • Two recently published studies suggested a link between vegetarianism and depression.
  • One study focused on a Brazilian population while the other included a large group of Britons.
  • However, both studies have noteworthy limitations and more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.

Two recent studies have suggested a link between meatless diets and depression, but some experts believe more in-depth research is needed to confirm these findings.

one study Posted this month in Journal of Affective DisordersIt was found that vegetarians experienced more episodes of depression than those who ate meat. The findings were based on a survey that analyzed the responses of just over 14,200 people between the ages of 35 and 74 in Brazil.

A questionnaire was used to determine whether subjects were on a meatless diet, while a diagnostic tool, called the Clinical Interview Schedule Revised (CIS-R), was used to determine whether subjects were experiencing depressive episodes.

The researchers wrote that the association was independent of socioeconomic and lifestyle factors such as physical activity, smoking, drinking alcohol, and body mass index (BMI). The exact reason for these results is not clear.

Read more | The 7 types of vegan diets from lacto to vegan, as explained by a dietitian

They wrote: “Depressive episodes are more prevalent in non-meat eaters…the nature of the association remains unclear, and longitudinal data are needed to clarify causation.”

The authors hypothesized that the link may be in part due to nutrient deficiencies, as previous research has shown that it is the most common cause of immune system depression.

For example, researchers A The 2020 study indicated that “The health of the immune system is greatly influenced by an individual’s nutritional status.” Certain foods, including excess consumption of sugar and allergenic foods, can impair immune function, they said, while nutritional factors that enhance immune function include all essential nutrients, antioxidants, carotenoids and flavonoids.

But in the latest study, the team did not find this association.

second study

In another study, too Posted recently in Journal of Affective DisordersThe researchers found that eating beef may causally reduce the risk of major depression.

The study included the health data of more than 440,000 people in the UK, 45,000 of whom had depression. Beef was the only food associated with a lower risk of depression.

The team of psychiatrists, from National Taiwan University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and other centers, said that how beef protects against depression is not entirely clear, but they suggested that the nutrients found in beef, including protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins B helps brain function and may be behind the protective effect.

Read more | Study suggests that ultra-processed foods can affect our brain health

However, they also noted that “potential mechanisms need further investigation to support our new findings”.

But Harvard researchers In 2017, I mentioned that “A dietary pattern characterized by high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy products, antioxidants, and low intake of animal foods appears to be associated with a lower risk of depression.”

A diet rich in red or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes, high-fat meat broths, and low intake of fruits and vegetables was associated with an increased risk of depression. , they added.

Experts disagree

Recent research has led some experts to question the findings and methodologies.

Mary Mosquera Cochran, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Tell Healthline it Because the researchers in the Brazilian study analyzed the data, rather than conducting a controlled trial, it is difficult to say firmly that a vegetarian diet causes depression.

Read more | A vegetarian diet is good for people and the environment

“The researchers found that diet quality was somewhat associated with higher rates of depression, but they did not fully explain this association,” said Cochran, who was not involved in the study.

It also highlighted that the same study sample included a very small percentage of people who were actually vegetarians – only 82 out of about 14,200 people.

“The authors note that it is currently estimated that 5-14% of Brazilians currently follow a vegetarian diet, so this sample may not reflect all vegetarians in Brazil either,” Cochran said.

Read more | Ultra-processed foods are damaging our health — and our planet

While the team in this study found no link between nutrient deficiencies and depression, another expert told Healthline that it’s definitely possible.

“When an individual excludes a whole food group, in this case, sources of protein and fat, and does not replace them with equally nutritionally appropriate options, it will affect a variety of systemic and physiological functions such as cognitive health,” said Monique Richard. , spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She explained that it is important to delve into the dietary patterns of these individuals to confidently rule out nutrient deficiencies.

“If an individual does not have enough nutrients such as vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and proteins, certain enzymes and proteins may be compromised, altering certain pathways in the body,” Richard said. “This can affect mood, anxiety, memory, perceived stress, sleep, etc.”

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