March 14, 2017 · Written by Foodtolive Team
Is There a Connection Between a Vegan Diet and Depression
After the rather scandalous post The Scary Mental Health Risks of Going Meatless by Jill Waldbieser published in 2015, the subject of a connection between a vegan diet and depression has been gaining more prominence. There are dozens of articles, including those on acclaimed scientific portals that either defend or refute this idea. This is hardly surprising as with the increase in the number of vegans and vegetarians, the level of controversy about meat-less diets rises exponentially
On one hand, it’s quite good to see people really looking into the subject matter and doing their research. Such ‘digging’ helps them understand the real effects of plant-based diets better. Considering the fact that the number of vegans has been steadily increasing, it’s safe to say that these people are satisfied with the data they find.
However, these controversial articles, especially those with catch titles, like the Waldbieser’s post, also have the power to scare people off. If the piece is published on a reputed website (Women’s Health in this case) its impact is even stronger.
The sad thing is that quite a few people don’t bother doing deeper research and take the first article they see at face value. This might turn out to be a huge mistake as the writers usually have their own agendas.
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For example, this particular post uses a German study to prove its main argument about the connection between a vegan diet and depression. This study has indeed shown that out of the group of 4100 subjects who participated in the survey, those with vegan or vegetarian diets have shown a 15% higher level of predisposition to depressive behavior. However, if one reads to the end, it’s also mentioned that there is a high chance that these people has the inclination for it or even developed a depression before changing their diet.
The official results of the study were inconclusive, stating that there is no proof that being a vegan or vegetarian makes one depressed. There is just as much of a chance that the innate predisposition to these psychological conditions is one of the reasons that attracts some people to go meat-less.
Whatever the case, the one thing scientists are sure of is that they aren’t sure of anything when it comes to understanding the relationship between a vegan diet and depression. Therefore, you should take all the articles that claim a plant-based meal plan to be an effective treatment or a cause for any mental disorders with a large pinch of salt.
In order to make up your own mind about this subject, you should take a closer look on the foods themselves and their effects on the body.
A Vegan Diet and Depression: Understanding the Matter
First of all, we must dismiss any claims of a connection between a vegan diet and mental disorders due to the lack of evidence. This subject was researched and nothing was proven. Therefore, no connection exists.
However, it’s also a proven fact that the foods we eat may affect our mental and emotional state. In fact, they influence every system in a human body, so each food triggers a variety of chain reactions that might have you feeling better or worse. This is one of the reasons why emotional eating is such a common issue and why there are specific foods that can reduce stress or boost productivity.
This means that you need to look not at the connection between a vegan diet and depression, but at the ‘emotional effects’ of individual foods. In this case, a meat-free diet definitely comes out on top as the better type because red meat is considered an ‘inflammatory’ product and ingesting it in large quantities is believed to increase the risk of anxiety and overall stress.
As a vegan diet is more well-balanced and usually plain healthier than that of a contemporary omnivore, sticking to it for a while improves your general wellbeing. This translates into an improvement in physical health, which inevitably leads to a positive emotional boost.
When you look at the matter like this, it seems obvious that veganism is not a cause of depression. On the contrary, as such meal plan is filled with ‘brain foods’ that benefit your nervous system (berries, nuts, olive oil, etc.), it has a chance to helping you through emotionally challenging times.
However, this is true only for a well-balanced vegan diet. If you don’t eat meat but don’t eat healthy as well, the effects of your meals would have a negative impact on your mental state and physical health. In this situation, veganism can indeed be a source of more problems as such as diet has fewer nutrients, and nutritional deficiencies often cause anxiety and stress.
Are a Vegan Diet and Depression Truly Connected
The right conclusion to this debate is that yes, a diet and your mental state are connected. However, it’s true for ANY diet as whether you eat or don’t eat meat doesn’t matter when your meal plan is unbalanced. If you want to stay strong and keep your mind and body healthy, you must stick to a healthy diet full of all the nutrients you need.