By now, we all know someone who’s a vegetarian or vegan. Even if you don’t, they tend to materialise very quickly (at least that’s what meme culture tells me). The plant-based dieters are the talk of the town these days and it looks like they are here to stay.
Sure, having a diet that consists heavily of red meat has plenty of problems such as higher chances of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and many other ailments. But totally giving up meat altogether is something I can’t bring myself to do just yet.
Not being able to have bacon cheeseburgers, medium rare steaks or pepperoni pizza anymore sounds incredibly depressing. It’s hard to give meat up cold turkey when the phrase itself has a type of meat in it. I’ve tried to kerb the stuff many times and have enjoyed varying levels of success, but apparently the grass (where the cows aren’t killed) isn’t as green as veggies and vegans portray.
A new study suggests that a vegetarian/vegan diet may, counterintuitively, be linked to depression. Bristol University conducted a long-winded study and found vegetarians scored a higher than average depression score.
The study examined approximately 10,000 British men and of those, 350 men were committed vegetarians and vegans. It turns out that they had a higher average depression score compared to the men on a conventional balanced diet who enjoyed tremendous foods such as fried chicken sandwiches and tacos with crispy carnitas.
The researchers say the shortage of vitamins and minerals in the non-meat diet meant that their mental health was taking a hit. A lack of meat meant a lack of vitamin B12 and eating more nuts leads to higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which both are linked to mental health problems and influence people’s moods.
Even after adjusting for potential confounding variables: family history, number of children, job status etc. the link still held. There was even a correlation between the number of years one had been a veggie and the severity of the depression, although it wasn’t statistically significant.
The study also revealed, “Lower intakes of seafood are thought to be associated with greater risk of depressive symptoms.” Potential factors also include “high blood levels of phytoestrogens, consequent mainly on diets rich in vegetables and soy.” Reading about veganism is making me depressed.
The team does point out that reverse causation can’t be ruled out though. What this means is that people who are already depressed might be more likely to become vegetarian, perhaps in hopes of treating their depression with a diet change, or because of ethical or other concerns. Studies like this don’t show causation, just correlation, so it’s hard to know which way the relationship works.
Though there are some limitations to the new research (namely, that it was in men only), it’s still shocking to hear that actually eating veggies can be bad for you. The team have to lump vegetarians and vegans together so the results are a bit skewed. This means there’s still hope for the plant-based diet yet. With the rise of veganism in the mainstream, the big players will find a way to make everyone happy, if not full.