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Forums: April 2012 Kickstart Forum: Depression and vegan diet
Created on: 04/28/12 07:10 AM Views: 2174 Replies: 5
Depression and vegan diet
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 7:10 AM

Has a low fat whole foods plant based diet been found to help chronic depression? I would appreciate any information and resources.

Thanks.

Edited 04/28/12 7:11 AM
RE: Depression and vegan diet
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 8:20 AM

There are some studies that show vegetarian diets may help with depression. Here are a couple of summaries of more recent ones (and links to where you can find them at PCRM.org):

2010: Vegetarians have lower instances of depression, according to a new study in Nutrition Journal. Researchers looked at 60 vegetarians and 78 meat-eaters in the southwestern United States and found that vegetarians scored significantly better on standardized mood tests. The mood tests measured depression, anxiety, and stress and were compared to food frequency questionnaires. The vegetarians consumed less eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and arachidonic acid—all animal sources of omega-6 fatty acids—but reported higher mean intakes of plant sources of omega-6 and omega-3.
http://www.pcrm.org/health/medNews/do-meaty-diets-fuel-depression

2012: Vegetarian diets improve mood and lower stress, according to a new study in Nutrition Journal. Researchers asked 39 meat-eaters to begin one of three different diets—a vegetarian diet, a meat-based diet, or a meat-and-fish-based diet. They found that after just two weeks, vegetarians scored significantly better on standardized mood and stress tests. The mood tests measured depression, anxiety, and stress and were compared with food frequency questionnaires. The vegetarians consumed less eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), animal sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and less arachidonic acid, an animal source of omega-6 fatty acids.
http://pcrm.org/health/medNews/vegetarian-diets-improve-mood-and-lower-stress

Susan Levin, MS, RD
PCRM Director of Nutrition Education

RE: Depression and vegan diet
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 8:12 PM

Thank you, Susan.

I pose the question because of concerns for my granddaughter. She is a college sophomore and has been fighting with clinical depression for 3 years. Her preference is to eat vegetarian, which her university cafeteria often offers. Not vegan, however. I wonder, would eliminating dairy and eggs make a positive difference for her?

What do you think of the methodology of the studies you cite? Both seem to rely on self reported food journals and self assessed mood and stress reports.

RE: Depression and vegan diet
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 8:13 PM

Thank you again for the links.

Edited 04/28/12 8:15 PM
RE: Depression and vegan diet
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 8:13 PM

Thank you, Susan.

I pose the question because of concerns for my granddaughter. She is a college sophomore and has been fighting with clinical depression for 3 years. Her preference is to eat vegetarian, which her university cafeteria often offers. Not vegan, however. I wonder, would eliminating dairy and eggs make a positive difference for her?

What do you think of the methodology of the studies you cite? Both seem to rely on self reported food journals and self assessed mood and stress reports.

RE: Depression and vegan diet
Posted Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Based on these studies, only meat products were eliminated from the diet, not all animal products (dairy, eggs), so I cannot know if eliminating the dairy and eggs would make a difference. She could try it - the physical benefits would certainly be a positive. Diet is always a good first step to consider when dealing with any illness or disease, but it's not always the whole answer.

As for the quality of the study, it is very common with dietary studies that people fill in their own information. Otherwise, the study would have to be in a "lock-down" type of environment where every calorie is monitored. Researchers and statisticians do try to control for such things as self-reporting as much as possible. But reading any research with a critical eye is smart.

Susan Levin, MS, RD
PCRM Director of Nutrition Education


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