Dr. Helen

I Believe It: Vegetarian Men More Depressed

A recent study finds men who don’t eat meat are more depressed:

From the same dataset that brought you the information that vegetarian mothers create drug-addled children, we learn that vegetarian men are more depressed than their meat-eating brothers. The study, Vegetarian diets and depressive symptoms among men, is in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

That dataset, Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), has over 9,000 men self-reporting on their eating habits. This study looked at the 350 self-identified vegetarians in their midst. These men completed a survey including a set of measures on depression at roughly the 18th week of their spouses’ pregnancy. Vegans were lumped in with vegetarians because of their small numbers. The researchers found that vegetarian men were more likely, with an odds ratio of 1.71 (that is a 70% increased risk) to be depressed. The authors say they accounted for a range of sociodemographic factors including family history, prior childhood psychiatric contact, educational level, number of children at home, marital and employment status, alcohol and tobacco use and educational level. The longer time an individual had been a vegetarian did not correlate, at least at a statistical significance, with depression. [1]…

So what did? They listed multiple nutrient interactions:

  • Nuts high in omega-6 fatty acids – associated with depression
  • Depressive people are more likely to change their dietary preferences
  • High levels of phytoestrogens and pesticide metabolites – endocrine disruptors from those pesky vegetables and soy
  • Lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids – presumably the vegetarians did not eat seafood
  • Lower red meat consumption – may result in lower Vitamin B-12 levels [2]

Which led them to state plainly, “It is possible that for some proportion of the population, vegetarianism is not chosen for health, religious or ethical reasons, but is a marker for other psychiatric disorders manifesting with symptoms of both eating disorders and depressive symptoms.”

I have to say that the stricter people are with their diet, the more out of  control they seem to feel about their lives, and I think too many vegetables and not enough protein is a recipe for disaster, especially for men.