Vegetarians are at a Higher Risk of Developing Mental Disorders (Study)

The U.S based study has revealed that a vegetarian diet may increase the likelihood of mental illness. Vegetarians are twice as likely to take medication for the depression and mental disorders and almost three times more likely to attempt suicide. The study which looked at over 160,000 individuals also showed that the shocking one in three people who eat a plant-based diet suffer from anxiety and depression.

The team of researchers reviewed 18 different studies to examine the association between meat consumption and mental health, involving 160,257 participants. Researchers concluded that vegans and vegetarians had significantly increased rates of risk of anxiety, depression and self-harm. They suggest that avoiding eating meat can be a behavioural marker that indicates people with poor mental health, but it needs more research.

The study is published in the journal; Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, entitled ‘Meat and Mental Health: A systematic review of meat abstention and depression, anxiety and related phenomena’.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that mental illness was one of the leading causes of disability worldwide (2007) and has a major impact on cardiovascular diseases. The investigators estimated that more than 300 million people suffered from depression (4.4% of the global population) and over 260 million people (3.6% of the global population) suffered from anxiety.

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These estimates showed a substantial increase in the number of people suffering from mental issues over the last two decades. Given the global increase in cases of mental illness in concert with increments in the advocacy and practice of vegetarianism, it is important to clarify the link between meat consumption and psychological health.

Researchers at the University of Alabama stated that people who avoided eating meat had significantly elevated rates of risk of anxiety, depression and self-harm. The study doesn’t support avoiding the consumption of meat for overall benefits for psychological health.

Dr. Edward Archer from the University of Alabama said that while benefits and risks of vegetarian and vegan diets have been debated for years, study outcomes showed that meat eaters have better mental health. The study’s findings have implications when defining what makes a healthy diet. Psychological health may need to be emphasised when evaluating the risks and behaviours of particular dietary patterns.

Echoing the findings of the study, the NHS Consultant Cardiologist, Aseem Malhotra said that if someone wants to avoid the risks of anxiety, depression and self-harm then they must go for meat consumption. He added that if someone is a vegetarian or vegan for ethical reasons, then they must personally invest extra in adapting strategies to protect their mental health.

Since meat contains a lot of protein, this could be beneficial for the body as the protein requirement is a significant one for the body. Since protein improves the overall health and prosperity of one’s body, there are other benefits, for example, the building and repairing the tissues, also the creation of antibodies that will shield the body from foreign invaders and infections; in this manner, it also strengthens the immune system. Most importantly as meat contains all the fundamental amino acids, it unquestionably ranks as one of the best protein sources.

Based on the systematic review of this study comprising 160,257 individuals, aged 11 to 96 years,  from different geographic regions, including Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania,  there is clear evidence that meat consumption is linked with higher rates or risk of anxiety, depression and self-harm behaviours. The findings with respect to mood states, stress perception and affective well-being are less clear and most of the studies do not support unequivocal inferences.

Amna Rana

Amna Rana, a writing enthusiast and a microbiologist. Her areas of interest are medical and health care. She writes about diseases, treatments, alternative therapies, lifestyles and the latest news. You can find her on Linkedin Amna Rana.

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