Vegetarians are almost twice as likely to suffer from depression as those who consume a conventional balanced diet, a new study suggests.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) studied more than 9600 men among which approximately 350 of them considered themselves to be vegetarians. The research illustrated that those who reported being vegetarians or vegans had significantly higher scores on a depression measuring scale than nonvegetarians.
The investigators wrote nutritional deficiencies such as, cobalamin or iron are a possible explanation for these findings. Lead author Capt Joseph R. Hibbeln, MD, acting chief of the section on Nutrition Neurosciences at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the NIH added because red meat is rich in vitamin B12, that nutrient may have played a role in the results.
He further added that if someone wants to be vegetarian or chooses to eat less meat, they should follow guideline recommendations to ensure they have a good vitamin B12 status.
The researchers noted that vegetarians tend to eat less omega -3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, folate, iron and zinc, which are essential for brain health. They also added vegetarian’s intake of omega-6 fatty acid, which can cause inflammation in large amount, is much higher than that of a typical meat consumer.
The study has limitations because it only studied men and the potential reasons for the differences in mental health among the participants are simply additional hypothesis. Researchers did not conduct further tests to see which of the factors (malnutrition, inflammation ) played a significant role.