Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Meat Eaters Tend To Have Better Psychological Health Than Vegetarians

"People who avoid meat consumption tend to have worse psychological health than those who eat meat, according to new research published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. The study, which did not draw any conclusions about causation, found that vegetarians/vegans were at a greater risk of depression, anxiety, and self-harm.

“Dietary choices have been a powerful indicator of social class and subsequent mate selection (e.g., whom we marry) since antiquity. Consequently, ‘what we eat’ and ‘how we eat’ are integral parts of our identity and directly influence our health via physiological, social, and psychological pathways,” explained study author Urska Dobersek, an assistant professor at the University of Southern Indiana.

“Therefore, given the dramatic surge in veganism and mental illness over the past two decades, a rigorous systematic review was a necessary first step in examining the relations between meat and mental health.”

The researchers reviewed 18 previous studies on the relationship between meat consumption and psychological health (which was narrowed down to depression, anxiety, deliberate self-harm, stress perception, and quality of life.) The studies included 149,559 meat-consumers and 8,584 meat-abstainers from Europe, Asia, North America, and Oceania.

“Vegetarian” can be a fuzzy term. To avoid confusion, the researchers only examined studies that provided a clear distinction between meat eaters and those who abstained from meat.

The researchers found “clear evidence” that those who abstained from consuming meat tended to have higher rates or risk of depression, anxiety, and self-harm compared to those who did not. Less clear was how meat consumption was related to stress perception and quality of life.

“My co-authors and I were truly surprised at how consistent the relation between meat-avoidance and the increased prevalence of mental illness was across populations. As we stated in our conclusion, ‘Our study does not support meat avoidance as a strategy to benefit psychological health,’” Dobersek told PsyPost.

But the causal relationship between avoidance of meat and psychological health is still unclear. Of the 18 reviewed studies, 16 used a cross-sectional design.

The two studies that provided some evidence of causality had mixed results. A randomized controlled trial found that vegetarians reported significantly better mood than omnivores and fish eaters after the trial, but a longitudinal study found a vegetarian diet was predictive of depression and anxiety.

“Correlation does not imply a causal relation and we present several explanations for our results.

 For example, individuals struggling with mental illness may alter their diets as a form of self-treatment; vegan and strict vegetarian diets may lead to nutrient deficiencies that increase the risk of mental illness; many individuals with eating disorders use veganism and vegetarianism as a ‘cover’ to hide their illness; and individuals who are extremely sensitive to or focused on the suffering of animals may become both vegetarian and depressed/anxious as a result,” Dobersek explained"

Vegetarian diets and mental illness have been reported on previously:

A vegan diet during pregnancy also puts the fetal brain in danger of stunted development and reduced cognitive capacities later in life. 
"Vitamin B12 is the largest and most complex of all vitamins, found only in animal-based foods.
This vitamin is made exclusively in the guts of animals by bacteria. It then migrates from the gut to muscle. The higher predatory animals are the best sources, along with seafood and fish.

Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to brain shrinkage and even Alzheimer’s disease by some research.

 Original article continues below:

“There are two major questions that need to be addressed. First, why do most vegans and vegetarians return to eating meat? Is it a biological drive to overcome nutrient deficiencies or are the perceived benefits overwhelmed by the social stigma of non-Western dietary patterns? Or perhaps, is it that the novelty and attention lose their effect over time while the effort required to maintain a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle remains the same. Second, what is the temporal pattern of the relation? In other words, does the shift in diet occur before or after the psychological issues are manifest?”
I lean towards the body knowing what it needs so it drives the individual back to eating meat.   A basic survival instinct.
Dobersek and her colleagues decided to conduct a systematic review because the research on meat-abstention had become increasingly contradictory

“The ‘average person’ does not have the requisite knowledge and training to place the results from a single research project into the larger body of scientific and historical knowledge. I think this reality drives the ‘diet-wars’ and ubiquitous false-facts about nutrition,” Dobersek said.

“Our study provides further evidence that because humans are omnivores, it is illogical and potentially unhealthy to recommend “eating a varied diet” followed by a long list of foods, beverages, and nutrients to avoid (e.g., meat, eggs, sugar, salt, fat, fruit juices, cholesterol, etc.). This is especially true, as my co-authors demonstrated, when the proscriptions and recommendations are based on a ‘fictional discourse on diet-disease relations.'”

The study, “Meat and mental health: a systematic review of meat abstention and depression, anxiety, and related phenomena“, was authored by Urska Dobersek, Gabrielle Wy, Joshua Adkins, Sydney Altmeyer, Kaitlin Krout, Carl J. Lavie, and Edward Archer.


  1. Thanks for this, Penny. It confirms what I've thought for some time now. Humans evolved with canine teeth for a reason. That's what I always tell the vegetarians in my life.

  2. This excerpt from the article is key:

    many individuals with eating disorders use veganism and vegetarianism as a ‘cover’ to hide their illness

    We lived for almost twenty years in Portland, OR (a Mecca for veganism) which gave us an up close experience in dealing with these people. Our experience is that many, many of these people have, how shall I say it, "issues". I think that they are already people who are angry and depressed or have other mental stresses (including some need for attention in the form of being a "victim" since they use their veganism as a way of calling attention to themselves and how "difficult" it is to dine out or eat at social gatherings with family, etc.). There is more, but I'll leave it at that.

    Vegetarianism is wiggly as you can say you're vegetarian and still eat eggs and dairy or fish or some permutation, including saying you're a vegetarian but still eating meat on occasion. Many people go the vegetarian route thinking that is a healthful eating option if they decide to lose weight and begin exercising. These are likely the people who do not show mental health issues in one of these studies. You're more likely to have a better mental disposition if you're taking positive steps in improving your health.

    You saw the article on lab meat. Grass fed beef and free range chickens and wild caught fish, etc., are all very good for humans as the animal has digested the beneficial parts of plants and insects (in the case of chickens) that humans cannot digest and use. The human eating the animals (and eggs) get the benefits of those plants and insects. So my question is, how can "lab meat" come close to being as good as real meat?

    1. Yup, gross article

      I agree regarding grass fed and free range chickens, there is lots of information that makes very clear they are better for us because they have digested the beneficial parts of plants etc.

      Lab meat will in no way be as good as real meat- can't see it at all

  3. I have struggled for a few years NOT to think ill of vegetarians but as time goes by I do tend think along the lines of Gwen.

    1. I find vegans to be very strident in their beliefs, almost extremist some of the time.

      There had been some occurrences round these parts and in TO that didn't do a lot to advance their ideas/causes

    2. They're very strident in their beliefs...but absolutely have NO patience with the "strident beliefs" of others.

  4. Nice distraction from C-1984. Here are some random thoughts:

    B12 can easily be got through vitamin supplements.

    It's true that all animals have feelings and don't want to die. That's why Vegans need to be aware that their pets would eat them if their body was rotting on the kitchen floor with no kibbles in sight, and they wouldn't lose any sleep over the vicious way in which their owner was tortured and murdered by the intruder that they allowed to get away without a scratch because he fed them treats.

    Plants are cognitive too, apparently, so maybe they can feel teeth sinking into them?

    Some plants are carnivorous: the "fly catchers" for instance and even some pineapple species. All plants live off rotting insects in the soil.

    Next time you swat a fly, think how hard it tried to escape you because it knew what you were up to and it didn't want to die.

    When I was a kid we used to recite: "Big bugs have little bugs, on their backs to bite 'em; Little bugs have littler bugs, and so ad infinitum."

    When I was a teenager I had friends who lived on a farm, and to escape the adults we would go out to the nice warm barn and yak about nothing while picking ticks out of the skin on the sides of the cows and squashing them to death. The cows loved that.

    I don't have a problem with the eating habits of vegans, but almost anything can be turned into a religion, and I'm not fond of religion because it far too often leads to a holier-than-thou attitude. On the other hand, if they brought their own fake meat to lunch at my place and didn't preach at me, I wouldn't mind.

    Meat eaters and vegans need to just live and let each other live. I once knew a vegan who was much more of an environmental activist than a vegan preacher. She would accost vehicle drivers and rate them out for idling their engines while waiting for someone. And she castigated me for holding my fridge door open too long, when really I was just waiting for her to answer my question, "What kind of fruit juice do you prefer?"

    Vegans are suffering terribly from a can't-win situation. Meat and dairy are massive world-wide industries that support the "global economy". What's going to happen to all those cows, pigs and chickens if meat is outlawed but they still have to be fed? They'll be slaughtered of course. And eaten. Think of the blow-out BBQ that will make.

    Then die-hard meat eaters will resort to munching flies and ants and other insects, thereby creating a serious lack of dead insects in the soil that feeds the plants, and the world will end with a retaliative plant attack on all humans.

    "The Day of the Triffids" is not fiction. It's prophecy.

    1. I needed a break from C 1984 Yaya, really and truly.

      "B12 can easily be got through vitamin supplements."

      If persons have informed themselves of that fact, but, there is evidence this has not been the case including with vegan children
      There are also other nutrients besides B-12 though like Lysine. And possibly others.

      " Vegans need to be aware that their pets would eat them if their body was rotting on the kitchen floor..."

      That's a sight to imagine!

      "Plants are cognitive too, apparently, so maybe they can feel teeth sinking into them?

      Yah, I've covered that previously and actually believe that to be true- There is research on plant communication through chemicals releases etc. Trees are great communicators. Including with us.
      Root systems are very much like neural networks.

      There is nothing we don't eat that isn't alive.
      Animals eat other animals. Fish eat other fish.
      Hawks and crows raid other birds nests and eat their eggs
      Polar bears would rip us to shreds and eat us.

      I was listening to the author of a book, I own and am very fond of, stating there is no egalitarianism in nature.
      Nature is brutal. And beautiful. At the same time..
      But there is not this idea of equal rights and opportunities in the real world. Like I said a polar bear will rip us to shreds and as you said a vegans pet will eat their corpse- It's nature. It's the real world.

      "Meat eaters and vegans need to just live and let each other live."

      I agree, but, have generally found it's the vegans that don't allow for that to occur. If they want to eat vegan that is entirely their choice, makes no difference to me.
      But they need also to let others live their lives as they so choose-
      If they come to harm through their poor diets, which seems to have some sound science behind it- that's their choice.

      "Vegans are suffering terribly from a can't-win situation"

      I can't agree with that, because, really they've never had so many options and been as accepted, never mind promoted, while meat eaters have been run down/shamed constantly.

      In vegans I find a kind of religious zealotry that is a bit much and as you mention "it far too often leads to a holier-than-thou attitude"

      They may believe in their minds they hold some higher ground, but,to my thinking they don't.

      that's about it

    2. "There is nothing we don't eat that isn't alive. "

      Should read: There is nothing we eat that isn't alive.
      Everything we eat was living, plant, animal, which is why we should not eat shit burgers or sewage steaks- or lab meat
      If it hasn't originated in the real- soil ,sun, water, air it isn't real. It hasn't drawn in energy from the real

    3. Penny I'm gonna save that for one of my Crowsnest quotes : )

  5. Hmmm... Not to make too fine a point of it, but a "shit burger" does come from (digested) plant/animal food, and is very likely "fortified" with all the right vitamins, so it's probably fairly nourishing. But it would come under the heading of "processed" food, and "processed" foods are not considered "healthy" by food purists -- which could be as much a religion as veganism if it got out of hand.

    Anyway, if there were nothing else to eat but frozen shit burgers, we'd all probably eat them and be glad of them. Either that or we'd start thinking about eating one another.

    Come on, you're supposed to laugh. These are crazy times. We have to at least be better at being crazy than our politicians.

  6. How would I address the arguments of true believers like this Reddit user?

    [–]CashewCraft 19 puntos hace 6 meses
    Or we could just eat vegetables? It's entirely possible to get everything a human diet requires from a vegan diet, so why jump to lobbying companies to start industrially farming insects and processing them in a manner that would probably still be way more harmful to the environment than simple crop rotation farming (especially since you're talking about scaling this to meet the demand for a global population) when you could just go out and eat some chickpeas or a almond or whatever?

    (Almonds tend to concentrate mercury, and perhaps entire populations are comparable, but one cricket or grasshopper definitely eats less, and produces less waste, than a cow. GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEAD.)

    1. Honestly I don't think one can rationally address a vegan.
      They are prone to mental disorders from nutritional deficiencies... they have cognitive dysfunction. It's all well documented. Their moral stance gives them a giant sense of importance beyond the reality of their circumstance. When dealing with the irrational, personally speaking, it's best to them sink under the weight of their own delusional malnourishement.

      One cricket or one grasshopper eats less then one cow?

      How is that comparable- I mean how many people can one grasshopper feed? Not even a one!
      But one cow can feed many.
      Was that the argument put forth by a vegan?
      If so it makes the irrationality quite clear. Yikes!