Leo Sher, M.D.
A research report, “Vegetarian diets and depressive symptoms among men” has recently been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders (1). The authors examined relations between vegetarian/vegan diet and depression in men.
Researchers used data from 9668 adult male partners of pregnant women in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Avon is a geographical area in south-west England. The collected data included identification as vegetarian or vegan.
The authors found that vegetarians had higher depression scores on average than non-vegetarians after adjustment for potential confounding factors. The authors also found a greater risk for Edinburgh Post Natal Depression Scale (EPDS) scores above 10 in vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians after adjustment for potential confounding factors.
The authors suggest that the observed differences in mood between vegetarian men and non-vegetarian men may be a result from contributions from multiple interactive nutrients. For example, vegetarians consume less n-3 highly unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin B12 and folate and more nuts rich in omega-6 fatty acids which may be associated with greater risk of depression.
The authors of the study also suggest that reverse causation cannot be ruled out. It is possible that some people do not choose vegetarianism for health, religious or ethical reasons. It may be a marker for some psychiatric disorders exhibiting with symptoms of both eating disorders and depression.
The results of this study are consistent with previous reports suggesting that vegetarian diet negatively affects mental well-being (2-7). For example, a study of 9113 22-27 year old women in Australia demonstrated a significant increase in depressive symptoms among vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians (2).
- Hibbeln JR, Northstone K, Evans J, Golding J. Vegetarian diets and depressive symptoms among men. J Affect Disord. 2018 Jan 1;225:13-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.07.051. Epub 2017 Jul 28.
- Baines S, Powers J, Brown WJ. How does the health and well-being of young Australian vegetarian and semi-vegetarian women compare with non-vegetarians? Public Health Nutr. 2007 May;10(5):436-42.
- Perry CL, Mcguire MT, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M. Characteristics of vegetarian adolescents in a multiethnic urban population. J Adolesc Health. 2001 Dec;29(6):406-16.
- Jacka FN, Pasco JA, Williams LJ, Mann N, Hodge A, Brazionis L, Berk M. Red meat consumption and mood and anxiety disorders. Psychother Psychosom. 2012;81(3):196-8. doi: 10.1159/000334910. Epub 2012 Mar 17.
- Larsson CL, Klock KS, Nordrehaug Astrøm A, Haugejorden O, Johansson G. Lifestyle-related characteristics of young low-meat consumers and omnivores in Sweden and Norway. J Adolesc Health. 2002 Aug;31(2):190-8.
- Michalak J, Zhang XC, Jacobi F. Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012 Jun 7;9:67. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-9-67.
- Baş M, Karabudak E, Kiziltan G. Vegetarianism and eating disorders: association between eating attitudes and other psychological factors among Turkish adolescents. Appetite. 2005 Jun;44(3):309-15.