Want to improve your mental health? A new study finds that going vegetarian is one way to do so.
A new study out by researchers from Arizona State University finds that vegetarians have significantly less “negative emotion” than omnivores, according to two different scoring procedures. The study is titled “Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross-sectional study in Seventh Day Adventist adults” and was published in Nutritional Journal in June.
Because there is a lack of research on the “mental health status” of vegetarians, in general, but some studies have shown that omnivores with a low intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — regulators of brain cell structure and function that are primarily found in fish — suffer from “impaired moods”, the researchers decided to conduct this study.
The basic finding was that the vegetarians were mentally healthy despite lower levels of EPA and DHA, and even healthier than the “healthy omnivores” they were compared to in the study.
The study participants were 138 Seventh Day Adventists living in the Southwest (60 vegetarians and 78 meat-eaters). Seventh Day Adventists are often used in such studies because their rather common and consistent lifestyle characteristics help to reduce the number of external factors that may have an effect on the results.
With lower scores on depression tests, and better mood profile scores, science is now supporting the anecdotal observations of many vegetarians and non-vegetarians that switching to a vegetarian diet improves your mental health as well as your physical health. I would guess that the same or even better goes for people who switch to a vegan diet as well.
As a great takeaway thought, I love this introduction to another article on this study by Alyson English at Rodale:
How’s this for a downer statistic: More than a quarter of all Americans suffer from diagnosable mental health issues. Many are treated with prescription antidepressants to the tune of about $12 billion, which is what Americans spend on these mood-boosting medications every year. But a new study finds that if we spent all that money on vegetarian diets rather than pills, we might be less depressed.
Image Credit: OakleyOriginals via flickr/CC license