Vegetarianism & Mental Health

A vegetarian-only diet can cause statistically significant mental health problems—with vegetarians 18 percent more likely to report having depression, and 28 percent more likely to experience panic attacks and anxiety, according to the latest issue of Women’s Health magazine.

The remarkable claims, contained in the magazine’s December issue, are based on two scientific studies—one Australian and another German—both of which also found that vegetarians were “less optimistic about their future” than those who kept meat in their diets.

There is little doubt, the magazine says, that going vegetarian can cause a person to lose weight. But, the magazine detailed its “lesser-known side effects: Panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and depression.”

Australian researchers, the magazine continued, revealed that vegetarians reported being less optimistic about the future than meat eaters.

“What’s more, they were 18 percent more likely to report depression and 28 percent more likely to suffer panic attacks and anxiety. A separate German study backs this up, finding that vegetarians were 15 percent more prone to depressive conditions and twice as likely to suffer anxiety disorders.”

All the experts agree that what you eat plays a major role in what happens in your head—something that is quite logical when the biological process of how the body works is considered.

B vitamins, for example, the most common nutrient found in meat, are used by the brain to control neurotransmitters such as glutamate. Low levels of glutamate have long been linked to depression, anxiety, and OCD.

Similarly, meager levels of zinc and iron, two nutrients far more prevalent in meats than vegetables, manifest as moodiness—or worse, says the magazine.

“I’ve had vegetarians come in thinking they’re having panic attacks when it’s really an iron deficiency,” one doctor quoted by the magazine said.

Without iron to help blood move oxygen around, the brain gets less oxygen, leaving it sluggish and “tired.”

Then there’s tryptophan, an essential amino acid found almost exclusively in poultry. Your body can’t make it on its own and needs it to produce serotonin, a hormone that acts as the brain’s natural antidepressant.

The magazine ends up recommending that instead of going completely vegetarian, the sensible thing to do is have a balanced diet of both meat and vegetables.

Recommended For You


  1. Seems all you got to do is stick the word "study" on an article and we are meant to take it as Gospel. Can you imagine getting your boss to make a major change and you aid " Its ok I did a study!" Who did this study? How many participated? What controls etc etc etc

  2. The study does not mention limitations with a meat based diet such as the large scale factory farmed meat industry's use of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, vaccines, medical intervention, accelerated growth, use of hormones, and animal feed including GM animal feed, animal feed from ground up bodies of groundup animal remains, arsenic, organophosphates and pesticides) that can result in increased levels of toxins accumulating in the human body. However the meat industry is not solely to blame as public water supplies have been known to have synthetic hormones, fluoride and other contaminants that can cause poor health enough specially groundwater supplies near sites of fracking. Dietary studies are also complicated by participant health affected by healthcare and genetics and obviously sample size.

  3. As limiting my food to vegetables made me dizzy, I added fish and have since then no health issues. And I look much younger than my 65, despite been trough a major tragedy (lost my only daughter in 2001). That I've stopped eating meat 25 five years ago had nothing to do with health concerns: I did it out of compassion. Naturally, I do hope that fish feel less than the more developped animals. By the way, my daughter ate meat quite often.

  4. I'd agree it's correlation, not causation. Although the cause, in my estimates would be from a different reason. The type of people who choose vegetarianism seem to be more socially sensitive to start with. I share concerns about the conditions and treatment of animals and the impact farming for meat has on the environment and our bodies. But I'm not and don't want to be a vegetarian. These concerns aren't of high enough importance to me that I would eliminate meat from my diet. While others who will not become vegetarians seem to look for reasons why vegetarianism is 'unhealthy' to ease their guilt, while sympathetic to vegetarians, I'm unapologetic about my choices. There appears to be patterns in personality traits involved in choosing vegetarianism. It's my suspicion that some of these traits are more prone to mental health issues due to how they view the world.

  5. I and my now grown family have never eaten meat and none of us have ever suffered from depression…we do however eat fish so we cannot be called true vegetarians.just cannot bear the thought of killing intelligent animals.

  6. Um or maybe it's just a simple correlation and not the cause of the depression. Most vegetarians are vegetarians either because they care about animals suffering needlessly, or because they realize the negative consequences of our meat consumption on the environment and on their bodies…

    So either reason, you have people who see a bunch of other people constantly making crap out of them or mocking them for either having compassion for animals, the earth, or their own bodies. How are any of those things a bad thing? Yet vegetarians are forced to live along side people who don't apparently either realize the harm they are doing or they just dont care.

    Don't you think that being in that situation might cause you to be more depressed or anxious or have panic attacks when everyone around you hates on you for caring and doesn't seem to give a fuck about anything but themselves either because they don't know any better (which is unnerving because why does our society not promote these things more etc) or because they do and just dont give a damn.

    So yea, saying its being on a vegetarian diet means nothing…correlation does NOT equal causation. That's basic statistics 101 stuff people.

    This article and those studies sure jump to big conclusions over a little correlation. I'd bet large sums of money that it's all about the type of person you are than what you are eating

  7. I do not trust it, as I have survived major tragedies and am not more depressed than what seems normal considering the current circumstances in Sweden. I would even claim that I look much younger than people my age.

  8. I think the reason for vegetarians as a group suffer these health issues because many vegetarians do not know anything about nutrition and forget to supplement the vitamins and minerals they are no longer getting from meat. It is very easy to have a vegetarian diet that is healthy, but few vegetarians do.

  9. Monkberry, have you considered eating unprocessed meat? I suggest Florida Meat rabbits because they're silent, odorless, meaty, and require very little space to raise. If butchering mindless little meatbags is too hard on your conscience, fresh roadkill is safe to eat. I found a fat gray squirrel on the highway today that's going to be a flame-broiled dinner for two tomorrow. I don't know why, but wild squirrel is much more filling than factory-farmed meat.

    You don't need much meat to survive; one meal a week is probably enough to supply all the nutrients you can't get from plants. And drink plenty of apple cider, because we all know what sort of apples it's made from.

  10. processed meat causes cancer and anyway vegetarians don't just eat vegetables, we eat beans brown rice, raw foods and have a far more nutritious and varied diet than the overweight, cancer and diabetes prone victims of meat and corn syrup diets. I am sticking with my healthy veggie diet, you eat processed animal effluent if you like.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.