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Meat Consumption Associated with Less Anxiety and Depression

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What we eat plays a major role in how we feel. Dobersek et al reviewed the literature regarding dietary intake and mental health disorders. The issue they studied was whether meat consumption or avoidance is associated with better mental health.

Twenty studies met the selection criteria, representing 171,802 participants (157,778 meat consumers and 13,259 meat abstainers). Most studies showed meat abstainers recorded higher rates of depression, anxiety, and self-harm, including suicide. Meat abstainers also were more likely to be prescribed medication for mental health problems. Conversely, the authors observed meat consumption was associated with significantly lower rates of depression ( P < 0.001) and anxiety ( P = 0.02). Their analysis showed the more rigorous the study, the more positive and consistent the relation between meat consumption and better mental health.

COMMENTARY

Evolutionary biologists have shown ancient Homo sapiens were omnivores who ate both animal and plant foods. 1,2 Our relatively large brains and narrow waistlines reflect this. What proportion of animal and plant foods we ate depended on our local geography as well as our skills as hunters and gatherers. Today, our food choices carry with it certain beliefs. Advocates for a plant-based diet (vegans and vegetarians) focus on data that support these beliefs. 3 The same can be said of zealous carnivores. 4

There was no apparent bias among the authors in their selection of studies. Since depression and anxiety are so common in medicine today, asking about diet may be important to give insight into these clinical conditions. People who were vegans for many years have reported a dramatic improvement in their well-being once they varied their diet to include healthy animal products. 5

References

1. Lieberman D. The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease. New York: Vintage Books; 2014.

2. Harari YN. Sapiens: A...