Vegetarian Diets Linked To Depression
A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders has shown vegetarian men suffer with higher rates of depression. Plant based diets offer numerous health benefits, however it’s important to remember that certain nutrients are more concentrated in animal foods. Obtaining enough of these nutrients can be a challenge unless you are very careful with your diet, or take nutritional supplements.
This new study used self-reported data from 9668 adult males in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Vegetarian men reported higher depression levels, after adjustment for socio-demographic levels. The authors of the study speculated that lower rates of vitamin B12 and iron among these men may be responsible.
Low B12 and iron levels are very common among vegetarians, with low iron being far more prevalent in women. If you are deficient in these nutrients you are more likely to be tired, lack motivation, suffer with poor concentration, and also be prone to depression and anxiety. Vegetarians may also be lacking in other minerals, particularly zinc, manganese and calcium. Insufficient omega 3 essential fatty acids, vitamin B6 and amino acids are also common in vegetarians. These nutrients are required for healthy brain function and neurotransmitter production; particularly tyrosine. Without these nutrients, you simply won’t be able to make enough feel-good brain chemicals that are essential for a good mood and good cognitive function.
Another potential problem with vegetarian diets is they may contain too much omega 6 fat, which raises inflammation in the body and can increase the risk of depression. Omega 6 fats are found in most vegetable oils (apart from olive oil and coconut oil), most nuts and seeds and often present in soy-based processed meat alternatives. Getting enough omega 3 fats to balance omega 6 can be tough. Omega 3 fats are present in walnuts, pecans, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
The authors of the study cited other research showing that depression was reduced, sometimes by up to 50 percent in people who started taking vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate supplements.