Vegetarian Diet Improves Mood
Fish contains long-chain n-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have been shown to have mood-protecting effects in some studies. On the other hand, meat contains the long-chain omega-6 (n-6) fatty acid, arachidonic acid. Diets low in fish but high in meat have been associated with depressive symptoms. Vegetarian diets lack both types of fatty acids.
A study was conducted to check the effect of vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet on mood. Thirty-nine individuals who normally consumed meat and/or poultry at least once a day were included in the study. These individuals were divided into 3 groups: The first group referred to as the omnivore group, was allowed to continue eating meat and fish once a day. The second group was asked to eat fish at least 3 or 4 times per week but avoid meat and poultry. The third group was asked to follow a vegetarian diet.
The dietary intake and mood changes were estimated using questionnaires. The study was conducted over a period of 2 weeks.
During this period, the dietary consumption of long chain fatty acids fell to negligible levels in the vegetarian group. The dietary EPA/DHA increased significantly in participants consuming only fish. The fatty acid intake in the omnivorous group remained unchanged.
Mood improved significantly in those consuming only vegetarian food as compared to fish or fish and meat. The results of the study also indicated that people eating vegetarian food may be able to deal with stress better than those eating non-vegetarian food.
Vegetarian diet not only avoids the long chain fatty acids, it is also rich in antioxidants that could have a positive effect on mood.
The study was however conducted on a small group of people and did have its limitations. The authors suggest further studies in this regard to establish the findings of this study.
1. Beezhold BL, Johnston CS. Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:9 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-9