Vegetarian diet = depression?  What does the study say?

Vegetarian diet = depression? What does the study say?


oi-Amritha K.

Nutritional psychiatry is one area of ​​medicine that has been inspired by the importance of diet in mental health. Basically, the foods we consume affect all aspects of our health, especially our mental health. For example, it has been shown in several recent research analyses, looking at multiple studies, that what one eats is associated with the risk of depression.

Vegetarian diet and depression

Diet patterns characterized by high intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy products, antioxidants, and low intake of animal foods were associated with a lower risk of depression. Conversely, a dietary pattern characterized by high consumption of red and/or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes, and high-fat broths and low intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with an increased risk of depression. [1][2].

Thus, a recent study contradicts a common assumption by asserting that vegetarians have more episodes of depression than meat eaters.

Vegetarian diet = depression? Important points from the study

  • The Journal of Affective Disorders A study published this month found that vegetarians (and vegans) were twice as likely to experience episodes of depression than meat eaters. [3].
  • The study examined 14,216 adults in Brazil Between the ages of 35 and 74. Food frequency questionnaires were used to determine whether people were following a meat-free diet, and diagnostic tools were used to determine whether people were depressed.
  • After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that the meat-free diets had twice as many episodes of depression as those consuming meat.
  • The association between diet and depression was independent of socioeconomic and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity levels and body mass index (BMI).
  • The study wasn’t entirely convincing, and researchers around the world have stated that the study is designed to analyze data rather than conduct a controlled trial, making it impossible to conclude whether a meat-free diet causes depression.
  • Specifically, the researchers found that poorer diet quality was somewhat associated with higher rates of depression. However, this link is not fully explained.
Vegetarian diet = depression?

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.Said the researcher who was not part of the study [4].

Can a meatless diet cause depression?

In light of the above, what might explain the association between vegetarianism and depression? Is there a non-food mechanism that might explain the relationship? It has been suggested that depression may be associated with an increased likelihood of becoming a vegetarian and not the other way around [5].

The first reason: It is common for depression to cause feelings of guilt as well as a tendency to think negative thoughts. Animals are treated cruelly in meat production. The inconvenient reality of massacres and factory farming is likely to reflect on depressed people, and they may feel guilty about their role in creating this demand. [6].

The second reason: It is also possible that giving up meat can lead to depression through means other than nutritional deficiency. Even if there is no “happy food” that is lacking in a vegetarian diet, eating meat can cause depression in other ways [7]. For example, a vegetarian diet may affect one’s relationships with others and participation in social activities and may sometimes be associated with arousal or other forms of social exclusion [8].

So what does this mean?

There are many possible explanations for the relationship between vegetarianism and depression. However, the results of this study also indicate that Plant-based nutrition does not contribute to depression.

A vegetarian social experience may contribute to depression, depression may increase your likelihood of becoming a vegetarian, or vegetarianism and depression may be influenced by a third variable, such as exposure to violent images of the meat industry.

Vegetarian diet = depression?

On a final note…

Furthermore, it is possible that vegans and depression may not cause the other but a third factor that causes both. This could be a number of characteristics or experiences associated with vegetarianism and depression.

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Story first published: Monday October 10, 2022 at 15:00 [IST]

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