Will a Vegetarian Diet Make You Depressed?

Will a Vegetarian Diet Make You Depressed?

diet depressionThe recent article in Women’s Health Magazine about the “scary mental health risks” associated with meatless diets has—not surprisingly—received lots of attention. People love to hear bad news about vegetarian and vegan diets, after all.

Author Jill Waldbieser pulled the article together from the usual hodgepodge of questionable resources—in this case a few anecdotes plus comments from Vegetarian Myth author Lierre Keith. She also referenced two studies, one in Australia and one in Germany.

I took a quick peek at the German study, which assessed diet and mental health in a group of about 4100 subjects.(1) Subjects who said they were vegetarian or predominantly vegetarian were 15% more likely to report depressive disorders. But they were also likely to have adopted their vegetarian diet after ... Read More >

Soyfoods, Olive Oil, Beans, and Omega-3s: A Vegan Plan for Reducing Depression

Soyfoods, Olive Oil, Beans, and Omega-3s: A Vegan Plan for Reducing Depression

tofu veggiesSome ex-vegans say that they became depressed on a plant-based diet. If they did, it was probably due to poor food choices and maybe a lack of recommended supplements. It’s doubtful that a healthy vegan diet promotes depression. In fact, eating more plant foods may have a few advantages for people who suffer from this chronic illness.

Is it possible, though, that vegans are more likely to suffer from depression for a completely different reason?

One small study suggests that vegans and vegetarians respond with more empathy (as measured by brain scans) when they view either animal or human suffering (1). And, not surprisingly, it’s possible that heightened empathy raises risk for depression (2).

Whether or not these findings are true, if you happen to ... Read More >

Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet

Ten Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy on a Vegan Diet

There is a long list of reasons why people fail on a vegan diet and return to the world of cheese sandwiches and fish fillets. They might have developed overt deficiencies or vague symptoms of poor health. Some ex-vegans say that they experienced depression or foggy thinking or fatigue without animal foods. Others struggled with challenging social situations or with cravings for animal foods.

The following ideas for staying happy and healthy on a vegan diet are all things I’ve written about before, but I wanted to condense them into a sort of checklist for those who are struggling to stay vegan. It may not cover everything (let me know if there are things you think I should add) but I think it addresses the ... Read More >

Vegetarian Diets and Eating Disorders

A study published in the journal Appetite took a new approach to examining the relationship between vegetarian diet patterns and eating disorders. I just wrote it up for the ADA’s vegetarian nutrition newsletter, and it’s such interesting research, that I wanted to share it here, even though Jack has already blogged about it.

Past research has suggested that young women who follow “vegetarian” diets are more likely to have restrained eating habits, or a tendency toward eating disorders—probably because some women with eating disorders adopt a vegetarian diet as a socially acceptable way of controlling food intake.

But these studies have typically lumped vegetarians and semi-vegetarians together and then compared this rather diverse group to omnivores. This new study is different, however, because it compared ... Read More >

Tryptophan, Milk and Depression

People who abandon plant-based diets often say that they suffered from depression as vegans. One common belief is that vegans can’t get adequate tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Tryptophan is needed to make the neurotransmitter serotonin and low levels of serotonin are linked to depression. In the book The Vegetarian Myth (which I plan to review here in the next few weeks), author Lierre Keith notes that she suffered from severe depression as a vegan partly because “there are no good plant sources of tryptophan.”

While it’s true that meat is higher in tryptophan than plants, a well-balanced vegan diet is almost guaranteed to provide more than enough of this amino acid. The Institute of Medicine—the group that sets nutrient recommendations for Americans—established an RDA of ... Read More >

Ex-Vegans, Happiness and Vitamin B12

People abandon plant-based eating for any number of reasons, but it’s often because they didn’t feel well as vegans. Some are so convinced that their former diet was damaging to their health that they even become activists against veganism.

If you poke around the internet and read stories of ex-vegans, it becomes pretty clear that at least some of them never wholeheartedly embraced the principles of vegan lifestyle to begin with. In one interview, Rhys Southan, an ex-vegan who blogs about veganism, said, “I’ve come to appreciate ethics as one possible ingredient in a meal, but not a mandatory one.”

Other ex-vegans might believe that, animal suffering notwithstanding, the personal sacrifice involved in being vegan is just not worth it. Ex-vegan Pamela Wilson ... Read More >

Supplements for Sad Vegans

Are you sad? I often am. Anyone with a genetic predisposition to depression knows what it’s like to have the blues for no earthly reason. And when you are an animal rights activist, it can make things a whole lot worse.

Let’s face it, when you care about animal suffering, it’s pretty easy to feel despondent and despairing. How many of us can read about factory farming or puppy mills or fur farms without feeling anger at the least, and more often a sense of overwhelming sadness.

Maybe we can’t change our genes or control all of the things in the world that make us unhappy. But lifestyle, including diet and exercise, can make a big difference. For example, vegans can be at higher risk ... Read More >