Vegetarian Diet not Good for Mood?
A study of nearly 10,000 men shows that vegetarians are at a higher risk for depression than those who consume meat.
The vegetarian diet is beneficial for health: it reduces cardiovascular risk, diabetes and colon cancer. It is also good for the line. But what about its impact on mental health? Researchers who publish their findings in the Journal of Affective Disorders have tried to find out. According to them, men who follow a vegetarian diet are more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms than omnivores.
Researchers used data on 9668 men in a relationship with a pregnant woman in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) study. Each man specified his diet and answered a questionnaire called Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), developed to identify women suffering from postnatal depression but which can be used also in men. The results show that vegetarian men are 74% more likely to have a score greater than 12 on the EPDS questionnaire, showing a high risk of severe depression. Similarly, scores greater than 10 were 66% more common among vegetarians than omnivores, indicating a risk of mild to moderate depression.
” To our knowledge, this is the first major epidemiological study to show a relationship between vegetarianism and significant depressive symptoms in adult men, ” say the authors of the study.
The nutrient intake of vegetarians can be different and therefore explain the effect of their diet on their mood. According to the researchers, nutritional deficits in vitamin B12, iron or zinc frequent in people who do not consume meat could explain these results. ” Meat is an important source of vitamin B12 and there is evidence that low levels of vitamin B12 may increase the risk of depression, ” say the study’s authors.
If previous studies have found the same associations, the data are still missing to conclude that there is a causal link between vegetarianism and depression. One can not exclude the possibility of a reverse association: people with fragile mental health are more likely to change their diet than others and therefore declare a vegetarian diet.
Clinical trials are needed to determine whether supplementation with certain nutrients would reduce depressive symptoms in vegetarians.