You’re a vegetarian. Have you lost your mind?

Interestingly, the study doesn’t say that vegetarianism causes mental health problems. But in all but two studies done in the past, vegetarianism has been linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and particularly eating disorders (bingeing, restricting, and purging behaviors) which may suggest that mental disorders cause vegetarianism which then makes the mental disorders worse.

You’re a vegetarian. Have you lost your mind?

Entirely vegan diets are unknown among traditional human cultures. Back in the early part of the 19th century, dentist and explorer Weston Price went looking for vegans, but found only cannibals*. Since vegan diets in nature provide no vitamin B12 and very little in the way of usable long chain omega3 fatty acids, it is not surprising that humans have continued to eat animals and animal-derived products. Nowadays one can obtain algae-derived DHA (the major long chain omega3 fatty acid present in the brain) and supplement B12. That wasn’t possible until a few years ago, and there’s little evidence that supplementation with DHA alone is helpful for the brain.

We have been encouraged to eat more plants and less animals. Various writers have suggested it is healthier for our bodies and our planet. I have no objections to a mostly plant-based diet as long as attention is paid to protein requirements and micronutrition. However, since little things in animal products (some essential like B12, some that can be created in our bodies but perhaps not in the amounts we need, such as creatine) seem to be very important for the brain, it’s interesting to look at the literature on vegetarian diets and mental health. Here is the latest (and the best) observational study: Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey. …

And when the researchers went down the line of depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders (things like body dysmorphic disorder, health anxiety and hypochondriasis), and eating disorders, the mostly vegetarian were more likely to be afflicted, and the strict vegetarian even more likely.** The full blown eating disorder diagnoses were rare enough, however, that the researchers didn’t compute the odds ratios, as they felt the dataset was not robust enough to be fair. Compared to the general population, the vegetarians were more likely to have mental disorders, and compared to the sex and education and population and age matched controls, the risk of mental disorders in vegetarians really shot up, with odds ratios hovering around 2 fold increased risk, some as high as 3 fold.

3 thoughts on “You’re a vegetarian. Have you lost your mind?

  1. What kind of predator wrote that piece? The minions of the Magician came up with an assuaging study which tells the sheep that the behavior of the wolf is better for your health…Being vegetarian for ten years I can confidently say the study is bull-crap!

  2. Chinese Buddhism has a looong history of veganism. Buddhist monks and nuns (even some layman) start very young being a vegan and live to ripe old age They get vitamin B12 through fermented vegetables. In opposed to Tibetan Buddhist, they don’t eat dairy at all, therefore are vegans. Meditation makes them the happiest people on earth. Please do more research on this. I am also a vegan. I think I’m the happiest person on earth :)

  3. A very small percentage of Asian Buddhists are vegetarian (their version of vegetarian like most in history also included at least eggs and butter but probably fish, pork, and chicken as well) and none are vegan. Even the monks and nuns consume animal products. Perhaps not so much red meat but certainly a favorite is Yak Butter Tea and eggs are quite popular and not at all vegan. In Asia, as with most populations, there are is a small percentage of vegetarians and that term is more flexible than you assume.

    Vegan advocates should really stop trying to change historical and cultural facts. No one believes you and you just make yourself look ridiculous. It’s so easy to look up this information. Keep in mind that when you read of someone in history described as a vegetarian, this generally only refers to red meat and has often been a temporary or seasonal situation. Laura is correct. There are no traditional cultures that have been vegan. None. Zero. Another example of vegetarian subterfuge is the famous Okinawan diet. It is so often claimed by vegetarians as proof that plant based diets are healthier because the Okinawan do not eat a lot of meat. It seems ironic that a vegan would make a claim based on the idea that there is no difference between no meat and some meat. The disconnect from rational thought is blatant. Furthermore, they don’t eat a lot of food in general compared to people in the west. A good percentage of their diet is pork. Every traditional Asian diet I am familiar with includes large quantities of eggs, pork and shellfish. Asian do not consume much dairy because they can’t digest it, not because they are vegans.

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