Not feeling your best after eating greens? You’re not alone.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Brazilian researchers found that vegetarians experience depressive episodes twice as frequently as meat eaters. There’s a “positive association between the prevalence of depressive episodes and a meatless diet,” the study reads.
A recent study conducted over six months sought to explore the link between meat-free diets and depression in adults, surveying 14,216 individuals aged 35 to 74. To assess the participants, researchers used the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised instrument, which is commonly used to diagnose mental health disorders. Vegetarians were found to have double the number of depressive episodes as meat eaters during the same period, even when accounting for variables such as smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity and micronutrient intake.
“Nutrient deficiencies do not explain this association. The nature of the association remains unclear, and longitudinal data are needed to clarify causal relationship,” the study said.
“Depressive episodes are more prevalent in individuals who do not eat meat, independently of socioeconomic and lifestyle factors,” the study concluded. “Nutrient deficiencies do not explain this association. The nature of the association remains unclear, and longitudinal data are needed to clarify causal relationship.”
Studies suggest a correlation between mood and food. In 2017, researchers looked at the diets of people with major depressive symptoms and found that those who followed 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 that people who ate a Mediterranean diet and took fish oil supplements were less likely to be depressed.
Although people who eat animal proteins may be generally happier, a plant-based diet has been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, Ambika Satija of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said that “for heart health protection, your diet needs to focus on the quality of plant foods.” But that doesn’t mean you need to give up on your favorite steak dinner or chicken wings.
Satija said, “It’s possible to benefit by reducing your consumption of animal foods without completely eliminating them from your diet.”