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Vegetarians and Depression

Sharon Palmer

Are vegetarians more prone to depression? That’s what a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found. Researchers linked plant-based diets to increased symptoms of depression in men, noting that it was possibly due to lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that are needed for neurological function, as well as a potential increase in omega-6 fatty acids, which could increase inflammation and likelihood of depression. For sure, we need more research on this link before we can draw conclusions. Previous studies have found that an increased intake of plant foods is associated with lower risks of depression. But when we look at diet patterns overall, it may be important to consider the mental health benefits of obtaining adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin B12 and iron in the diet. I suggest that vegans and vegetarians should get generous intakes of ALA omega-3s, and supplement their diets with algae DHA and EPA. In addition, I recommend supplementation of vitamin B12. And obtaining adequate levels of the major food groups, including whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables will help ensure good intake of other important nutrients, including iron. Read more about my nutrient recommendations for vegans here.

Image: Pears, Sharon Palmer, RDN

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