Vegetarianism has been fairly popular for quite a while, but it looks like eating all green food and no meat may pose problems to your mental well-being. In the past, researchers have claimed that red meat is harmful for human. However, being vegetarian has its own disadvantages, as it can lead to emotional and mental health problems, says a new study. In fact, the study says that maintaining a meatless diet can socially impact one’s health as well. The risks include anxiety, panic, depression and obsessive compulsiveness.

According to a report published in the Women’s Health in 2015, researchers found that there was a link between lack of animal proteins and a rise in emotional problems. The magazine cited the case of a physically active 35-year-old woman who suffered panic attacks after taking to vegetarianism. And to everyone’s surprise, after getting meat back in her diet, the woman’s energy level increased, with a sharp dip in instances of emotional breakdowns.

Vegetarian diet and mental health

The correlation between mental health and a meat-based diet makes sense due to the fact that certain nutrients – B12, long chain omega 3 fatty acids, choline and zinc – that are particularly important for the brain and nervous system are mostly low in vegetarian diets. Fishes are a major source of omega-3 fatty acids that suppress mental illness, while a vegetarian diet may not contain essential amino acid precursors to the “feel good” neurotransmitters known as serotonin and catecholamines. It seems like the Paleo diet – which promotes eating meat and vegetables but discourages processed food, alcohol and sugar – is the most preferred choice of experts.

According to a previous study, “Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey,” published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in 2012, vegetarians displayed higher prevalence rates for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and somatoform disorders.

For the study, researchers used data from the German National Health Interview and Examination Survey and its Mental Health Supplement (GHS-MHS) and assessed the participants by a standardized individual face-to-face diagnostic interview for mental disorders. They also analyzed the consumption of various food products (meats, vegetables and fruits, fish, etc.) in individuals with different mental disorders. The findings revealed elevated prevalence rates in vegetarians for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, somatoform disorders and syndromes, as well as for eating disorders. On the whole, the study said that avoiding meat in the diet was linked to mental disorders.

The way forward

Are those who are more likely to select vegetarianism also more vulnerable to depression and anxiety? Or maybe those with mental troubles particularly try to avoid meat. One must not quit meat cold turkey. Instead, the person should consult a doctor beforehand, especially if he is prone to mood disorders.

For those fighting depression, talk therapy can help in understanding and changing thoughts and behaviors that contribute to how you feel. Treatment of depression requires qualified medical supervision. Most people are usually unable to get over depression without professional help. Fortunately, it is a highly treatable condition and more than 80 percent of people get better with help.