11

votes

Study: Vegetarianism correlated with higher incidence of mental illness

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 11, 2012 at 3:17 PM

A study conducted found a correlation between the adaptation of a vegetarian diet and an elevated risk of mental illness (neuroticism, major depression, OCD, phobias, etc) in comparison to a matched non-vegetarian group which took socio-economic factors into account (so that it wasn't just elite, financially well-off vegetarians vs. trailer trash junk food eaters). One of the possible reasons listed for the high-rate of depression and social anxiety was how vegetarians negatively define themselves by what they don't eat (ie, meat).

What would they find if they polled the Paleo community?

Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey

D7f404b29047b12e2c2f528934b7b80b

(133)

on September 08, 2012
at 02:54 AM

An example would be that low blood sugar can mimic panic attack symptoms, which then cause an anxious person to freak out and have an actual panic attack! This happened to me all the time. Then i would feel weak and faint and wouldnt wanna do social things for fear of either not being able to eat my vegetarian food or having a possible panic attack or fainting in public. The fear of social settings would in tern cause depression from feeling alone. Its a nasty cycle.

8292546789ca48c32ead34c6e884d059

on September 08, 2012
at 01:56 AM

One person commented that women are more likely to have mental health issues. Women are also more likely to be vegetarian. The joy of correlations.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on September 07, 2012
at 10:43 PM

I agree! There's just no good reason to eliminate eggs or from a vegetarian diet unless you have an allergy. If ethics are a concern, either raise your own hens or buy eggs from a known source who treats them well.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on June 14, 2012
at 08:12 AM

Every mental health claim is a comparison with the "norm". Compared to normal people, who would eat concrete, or cardboard if it tasted nice, we are fixated.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 14, 2012
at 06:09 AM

My mom told me never to argue about two things: religion and politics. Now I know a third one!

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 14, 2012
at 06:07 AM

Thank you. Nice to know. I love watermelon.

34a367e60db77270bd7096dc04270fdc

(4171)

on June 12, 2012
at 05:30 PM

Peoples eating habits rank right up there with religion and politics - it's something people become passionate about and believe deeply in. That's all you're seeing, passionate people!

0577f8697d8e84534ccd097f7841680b

(24)

on June 12, 2012
at 02:49 PM

Thank you, VB! However, in looking at my post I realized that it probably came across as snarky. To be clear, I follow paleo dieting as well and have benefited from it greatly. I just think that a fixation on diet (which often characterizes vegetarians and paleos) is often a symptom of a mild neurosis. We're all familiar with the charges that paleo people can be cult-like, and I think there is some truth in that. Just look at some of the questions that show up here on any given day :)

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 12, 2012
at 08:32 AM

They are boiled and sometimes I buy expensive oysters from france that are raw, but the boiled ones taste better (and it's less work cuz there are out of the shells already). I did that recipe, but it tasted a bit weird. Maybe I need more sugar :), but I find sugar pretty boring. I eat watermelons, pawpaws, cherries and orange juice. Sometimes pineapple.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:58 AM

What fruits do you eat?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:58 AM

Thank you very much for answering about your food. Do you cook oysters or eat them raw? You can make all kinds of foods with gelatin - like mix gelatin with orange juice or milk (one or the other), add some sugar - here is your jello!

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:55 AM

Thank you for sharing. It is important to know that.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:53 AM

Amen! And other things as well...

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:53 AM

What's with all that negativity? Please be nice to Timothy. Let people speak their minds without being afraid. If you do not like his answer - provide your counter-arguments, don't downvote him. That's just mean.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on June 12, 2012
at 02:45 AM

Makes sense. Less sat fats to run vital functions in the brain. Less aminos for the same, and little to no choline. Some of these can be somewhat countered with careful eating or supplements, but I doubt all of it can - at least in a vegan. At least a vegetarian can eat eggs and drink milk...

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on June 12, 2012
at 01:54 AM

@Vandy, a sense of humor will do you worlds of good. I have experienced it and laughed out loud at trjones' answer.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 11, 2012
at 10:52 PM

Mental illness? Nah. Self-righteousness? You bet! :)

Ecb90bbbd5a15868b2592d517a4a5e82

(280)

on June 11, 2012
at 10:39 PM

There are many studies - good RCT trials - that prove how nutrient deficiency causes various mental illnesses, and published in prestigious journals. I'd say the evidence is strong. For example, bipolar disorder: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/7/1/2/table/T2 (from a multi-study review published in Nutrition Journal)

3327924660b1e2f8f8fc4ca27fedf2b2

(2919)

on June 11, 2012
at 09:48 PM

Did you seriously register for Paleohacks just to post that, Timothy? You sound like a bitter veggie.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on June 11, 2012
at 09:26 PM

Orthorexia at the least.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:55 PM

Okay I don't know flower names, should've asked my mother :D, vegetarians just don't eat animals themselves, but they do eat animal products. I don't eat veggies yes, don't really cook anymore except for liver.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:23 PM

Those flowers are called lilacs, BTW :) Does not look like you are eating much. I thought the word VEGETArian came from VEGETables and the only vegetable you eat is... fruit? You are a FRUITarina then.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:18 PM

Hi flower :P Dairy is vegetarian, VB, eggs too. Most of my calories just come from milk, orange juice, fruits, sugar, coffee, coconut oil, and the occasional liver and oysters (and gelatin if I make candy, I used to put gelatin in water but I got bored with it). If I find a tasty candy recipe I'll be eating gelatin like crazy again, but last time I made some it tasted like the candy my grandmother used to give me, pretty weird.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:15 PM

All joking aside, the study does actually call that into question as a motivating factor for adopting a veg diet. Are people with mental disorders more predisposed to going on a tightly-controlled diet?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:05 PM

Hi, green dino :)How can you be a vegetarian if you eat dairy and gelatin? I thought you were RayPeatarian and his diet is not even close to vegetarian... I thought he was against eating vegetables unless it is a well-cooked potato. Actually, Korion, I would love to know what you eat - it is like a mystery to me...

34a367e60db77270bd7096dc04270fdc

(4171)

on June 11, 2012
at 07:33 PM

From 1990 to 1999 my husband was a Marine and we ate a LOT of Hamburger Helper and tons of garbage food that they sell for cheap at the Commissary. I would call my younger self trailer trash though we didn't live in a trailer - it is what it is and we evolve, hopefully. I don't think he was trying to be rude or offensive imo

949d4d02ea7d1abd714cc3347c2c6854

(1021)

on June 11, 2012
at 06:54 PM

I don't know where that vegetarian community would have come from, but I lived in rural Illinois and South Texas...I didn't even know any other vegetarians. Meat just didn't seem like food anymore after almost 17 years, so it was really an effort to start eating meat again.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:46 PM

Also, as someone who WAS trailer trash from late-2000 to April 2004, I can tell you that people who live in trailer parks are not there because they think it's an awesome place to live. And their diets tend to be some of the worst ever. My trailer had no a/c, had holes in the floors from bathroom leaks, termites and roaches. My bike was stolen from my driveway in broad daylight. So having been there and done that I'm just calling it what it is (what you think is "offensive").

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:41 PM

My experience is similar. I had no community to belong to as a vegetarian, nor did I form an identity around it. Lots of depression whenever my animal fat intake has been low, and it was the worst when I was eating a cleaner vegetarian diet than when I ate a junky one. I didn't know I was capable of such a rosy outlook on life until I started eating saturated animal fat abundantly.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:35 PM

Fine, how does "low-income junk food eaters" sound?

A1a0baccef58499acf9ceb3c874997f2

(675)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:31 PM

"trailer trash"? Wow. Offensive much?

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:22 PM

From what I've seen on PH and across the web, your experience is not uncommon. Perhaps by isolating themselves within their own community, via herd-think, vegetarians reinforce their neurotic tendencies and are guilted into sticking with the diet.

531b053b68e92ac509fc1544f88dc103

(1205)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:10 PM

I ate vegan for a year - nearly destroyed my body completely. I'd say that was pretty "mental".

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:10 PM

The study offered a large checklist of foods by which they would select "Do not eat at all", "Eat monthly", "Eat weekly", "Eat daily", "Eat several times a day". So I'm assuming that they people conducting the study would have a good idea of what the participants ate on a regular basis.

35b2cb4d450e5288895c255dfdfff35d

(5828)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:03 PM

Haven't looked at the study but wondering -- Were the vegetarians eating a healthy diet? Were they eating lots of junk? In other words, was the lack of animal protein and animal fats the problem or did they eat crap?

949d4d02ea7d1abd714cc3347c2c6854

(1021)

on June 11, 2012
at 04:59 PM

Is this really helpful? Mental illness isn't much of a laughing matter to those of us who have experienced it.

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13 Answers

11
4ec0fe4b4aab327f7efa2dfb06b032ff

(5145)

on June 11, 2012
at 03:31 PM

I always considered becoming a vegetarian as a sign of an already existing mental illness, not a contributing factor.

531b053b68e92ac509fc1544f88dc103

(1205)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:10 PM

I ate vegan for a year - nearly destroyed my body completely. I'd say that was pretty "mental".

949d4d02ea7d1abd714cc3347c2c6854

(1021)

on June 11, 2012
at 04:59 PM

Is this really helpful? Mental illness isn't much of a laughing matter to those of us who have experienced it.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:15 PM

All joking aside, the study does actually call that into question as a motivating factor for adopting a veg diet. Are people with mental disorders more predisposed to going on a tightly-controlled diet?

61844af1187e745e09bb394cbd28cf23

(11058)

on June 12, 2012
at 01:54 AM

@Vandy, a sense of humor will do you worlds of good. I have experienced it and laughed out loud at trjones' answer.

9
949d4d02ea7d1abd714cc3347c2c6854

on June 11, 2012
at 04:58 PM

My n=1 experience is that vegetarianism greatly contributed to 10 years of depression and anti-depressants. Once I began eating a Paleo diet, I was able to eliminate the drugs for the first time in my adult life. I wish I had known that I might be doing myself such a disservice by trying to eat "responsibly."

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:41 PM

My experience is similar. I had no community to belong to as a vegetarian, nor did I form an identity around it. Lots of depression whenever my animal fat intake has been low, and it was the worst when I was eating a cleaner vegetarian diet than when I ate a junky one. I didn't know I was capable of such a rosy outlook on life until I started eating saturated animal fat abundantly.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:22 PM

From what I've seen on PH and across the web, your experience is not uncommon. Perhaps by isolating themselves within their own community, via herd-think, vegetarians reinforce their neurotic tendencies and are guilted into sticking with the diet.

949d4d02ea7d1abd714cc3347c2c6854

(1021)

on June 11, 2012
at 06:54 PM

I don't know where that vegetarian community would have come from, but I lived in rural Illinois and South Texas...I didn't even know any other vegetarians. Meat just didn't seem like food anymore after almost 17 years, so it was really an effort to start eating meat again.

5
B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:43 PM

There's nothing wrong with vegetarianism, as long as you don't replace meat with tofu or make other silly choices. I'm practically vegetarian right now, apart from the occasional oysters and liver.

I think the problem here is the lack of fat-soluble vitamins.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:05 PM

Hi, green dino :)How can you be a vegetarian if you eat dairy and gelatin? I thought you were RayPeatarian and his diet is not even close to vegetarian... I thought he was against eating vegetables unless it is a well-cooked potato. Actually, Korion, I would love to know what you eat - it is like a mystery to me...

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:58 AM

Thank you very much for answering about your food. Do you cook oysters or eat them raw? You can make all kinds of foods with gelatin - like mix gelatin with orange juice or milk (one or the other), add some sugar - here is your jello!

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:23 PM

Those flowers are called lilacs, BTW :) Does not look like you are eating much. I thought the word VEGETArian came from VEGETables and the only vegetable you eat is... fruit? You are a FRUITarina then.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:58 AM

What fruits do you eat?

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:18 PM

Hi flower :P Dairy is vegetarian, VB, eggs too. Most of my calories just come from milk, orange juice, fruits, sugar, coffee, coconut oil, and the occasional liver and oysters (and gelatin if I make candy, I used to put gelatin in water but I got bored with it). If I find a tasty candy recipe I'll be eating gelatin like crazy again, but last time I made some it tasted like the candy my grandmother used to give me, pretty weird.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 12, 2012
at 08:32 AM

They are boiled and sometimes I buy expensive oysters from france that are raw, but the boiled ones taste better (and it's less work cuz there are out of the shells already). I did that recipe, but it tasted a bit weird. Maybe I need more sugar :), but I find sugar pretty boring. I eat watermelons, pawpaws, cherries and orange juice. Sometimes pineapple.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on June 11, 2012
at 08:55 PM

Okay I don't know flower names, should've asked my mother :D, vegetarians just don't eat animals themselves, but they do eat animal products. I don't eat veggies yes, don't really cook anymore except for liver.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 14, 2012
at 06:07 AM

Thank you. Nice to know. I love watermelon.

4
3327924660b1e2f8f8fc4ca27fedf2b2

(2919)

on June 11, 2012
at 05:39 PM

Vegetarianism (and by extension veganism) has been linked time and time again with eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa/Bulimia/EDNOS.

Many young men and women who develop eating disorders often start out as vegetarians and severely restrict their fat intake.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:53 AM

Amen! And other things as well...

3
1e443a3241f80129faa05125ce346e47

(734)

on June 11, 2012
at 09:34 PM

I have been vegetarian for about 5 years before I got majors health complaints, which eventually resulted in serious disease and I believe my diet to be the most important factor contributing to it. I believe that there are two main reasons why a purely vegetarian diet can be unhealthy:

  • Long-term starvation: lack of nutrients that are only or mostly found in animal products

  • High in carbohydrates, low in protein, low in fat: vegetarians usually eat high carbohydrate diets, with lots of grains/grainy products and very little protein and fat. The protein they eat often comes from products like seitan (almost pure gluten... poison!), fat is nearly always absent.

Is vegetarianism always bad? I don't think so. Is it hard to live healthily in the long-term on a vegetarian diet? Most definitely. The problem is most of the issues only occur after having been vegetarian for a very long time, while (a) the damage has already been done and (b) most people don't associate their complaints with the diet.

As for the mental illness, I believe it is known that high-carbohydrate diets can contribute to mental illnesses, and that low-carbohydrate diets can contribute to relieving symptoms associated with mental illness (that's the point of the GAPS-diet).

Ecb90bbbd5a15868b2592d517a4a5e82

(280)

on June 11, 2012
at 10:39 PM

There are many studies - good RCT trials - that prove how nutrient deficiency causes various mental illnesses, and published in prestigious journals. I'd say the evidence is strong. For example, bipolar disorder: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/7/1/2/table/T2 (from a multi-study review published in Nutrition Journal)

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:55 AM

Thank you for sharing. It is important to know that.

2
D7f404b29047b12e2c2f528934b7b80b

(133)

on September 08, 2012
at 02:11 AM

A while after becoming vegetarian my anxiety and depression increased. It's that that i didnt have it before but the diet made it worse, to the point where i became agoraphobic and it brought out other phobias as well. Once i went back to animal meat the symtoms decreased but did not totally go away. My opinion would be that if you are predisposed to mental illness a vegitarian diet can manifest symptoms. I think it's partially due to surgar highs and lows from eating a high carb diet and vitamin deficienties.

D7f404b29047b12e2c2f528934b7b80b

(133)

on September 08, 2012
at 02:54 AM

An example would be that low blood sugar can mimic panic attack symptoms, which then cause an anxious person to freak out and have an actual panic attack! This happened to me all the time. Then i would feel weak and faint and wouldnt wanna do social things for fear of either not being able to eat my vegetarian food or having a possible panic attack or fainting in public. The fear of social settings would in tern cause depression from feeling alone. Its a nasty cycle.

2
3a9d5dde5212ccd34b860bb6ed07bbef

on September 06, 2012
at 02:40 PM

Does that mean dairy consumption is correlated with higher incidence of mental illness? Shouldn't it, considering we're talking about vegetarians and not vegans?

1
32d059a467e99a4fc83201407a4a238d

on September 07, 2012
at 07:15 PM

Interesting discussion. I do think it's possible to be healthy as a vegetarian if you do eggs and/or full-fat dairy. And run like hell from soy.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on September 07, 2012
at 10:43 PM

I agree! There's just no good reason to eliminate eggs or from a vegetarian diet unless you have an allergy. If ethics are a concern, either raise your own hens or buy eggs from a known source who treats them well.

1
F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 14, 2012
at 06:10 AM

Thanks for sharing! Next time I see a vegetarian or a vegan, I know what NOT TO SAY.

0
Aa2224ea200abb90bd9d01a140d6d0e6

on October 22, 2012
at 05:23 AM

There is logic behind the study, but not like you would think. Typically, we are raised as omnivores. As such, we learn to eat a relatively balanced diet from our predecessors. Many vegans and vegetarians came to it after this initially established diet indoctrination. As with anything new, there's a learning curve. If you simply cut out animal products, you're bound to leave out important nutrients. If you do your homework, however, complete and healthy nutrition can be achieved on a vegan or vegetarian diet. After all, the animals you get your nutrients from originally got them for vegetation...

I have just recently become very aware that many "mental illnesses" are really no more than nutrient deficiencies. When addressed, no more "mental illness" exists.

The key in any healthy diet, which the paleo diet seems to have simply put in simply terms, is to get away from processed and genetically modified foods. We need real, whole food to thrive, whatever the diet.

0
8b51c46130ecc183bf370e1d5e455392

on September 08, 2012
at 05:05 PM

I agree with the thought that the personality type of the vegetarian is probably very neurotic in the first place. Nothing wrong with that, as I am one of them. Also, they (we) tend to be somewhat sensitive types to the suffering of farm animals and the like. However, there are way too many studies espousing the phytochemical, antioxidants, etc in the vegetarian diet, so I think it is good, but only that animal fats and fat soluble vitamins are missing.

0
7c379a865738d2b373a362dc0f1d9459

on September 06, 2012
at 02:10 PM

I think this could be a case of someone playing with statistics. I find it very likely that people with mantle illness choose to follow vegetarian, vegan, or even paleo diets and that it is not that the illness is caused by the diet. People who have eating disorders or history of being OCD would be much more likely to choose a controlled diet than the general population. I think this is a case of someone using the statistics to say what they want them to say.

8292546789ca48c32ead34c6e884d059

on September 08, 2012
at 01:56 AM

One person commented that women are more likely to have mental health issues. Women are also more likely to be vegetarian. The joy of correlations.

0
0577f8697d8e84534ccd097f7841680b

on June 11, 2012
at 09:23 PM

Not surprising at all. I suspect there is a decent correlation between paleo dieting and mental illness as well.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on June 11, 2012
at 10:52 PM

Mental illness? Nah. Self-righteousness? You bet! :)

3327924660b1e2f8f8fc4ca27fedf2b2

(2919)

on June 11, 2012
at 09:48 PM

Did you seriously register for Paleohacks just to post that, Timothy? You sound like a bitter veggie.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on June 11, 2012
at 09:26 PM

Orthorexia at the least.

34a367e60db77270bd7096dc04270fdc

(4171)

on June 12, 2012
at 05:30 PM

Peoples eating habits rank right up there with religion and politics - it's something people become passionate about and believe deeply in. That's all you're seeing, passionate people!

0577f8697d8e84534ccd097f7841680b

(24)

on June 12, 2012
at 02:49 PM

Thank you, VB! However, in looking at my post I realized that it probably came across as snarky. To be clear, I follow paleo dieting as well and have benefited from it greatly. I just think that a fixation on diet (which often characterizes vegetarians and paleos) is often a symptom of a mild neurosis. We're all familiar with the charges that paleo people can be cult-like, and I think there is some truth in that. Just look at some of the questions that show up here on any given day :)

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 12, 2012
at 07:53 AM

What's with all that negativity? Please be nice to Timothy. Let people speak their minds without being afraid. If you do not like his answer - provide your counter-arguments, don't downvote him. That's just mean.

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on June 14, 2012
at 08:12 AM

Every mental health claim is a comparison with the "norm". Compared to normal people, who would eat concrete, or cardboard if it tasted nice, we are fixated.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790

(15515)

on June 14, 2012
at 06:09 AM

My mom told me never to argue about two things: religion and politics. Now I know a third one!

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