Here’s one more reason to try out a vegetarian lifestyle!

Depression, anxiety and general stress are modern-day epidemics. Yet when people go to see a doctor or psychologist about their mental health, they are hardly ever asked what they eat.

According to a recent study, that’s a huge mistake. Researchers at Arizona State University have found that a diet free of all meat and eggs significantly decreases stress related disorders.

The researchers administered two validated psychological questionnaires, the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS) to 39 healthy adults to assess their mental health at the start of the study, and then randomly assigned them to one of three diet groups:

• A control group, which maintained regular intake of meat;
• A fish group, which eliminated meat, poultry and eggs but consumed three to four servings per week of seafood; and
• A vegetarian group, which eliminated all meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.

After two weeks, the researchers found that the group assigned to the vegetarian diet improved significantly on both the DASS and POMS scales. The fish group experienced no significant mood improvement.

The researchers were particularly interested in participants’ blood levels of three fatty acids (components of fat) that affect mental health: Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Arachidonic Acid (AA).

EPA and DHA, both long-chain Omega-3 fats, are touted for their ability to decrease anxiety and depression.

While the fish-eating group experienced significant increases in their EPA and DHA intakes, their mood states were not improved. On the other hand, the vegetarian group significantly reduced their EPA and DHA intakes and experienced substantial mood improvements.

The researchers speculated that one explanation for this unexpected result was that the AA intake of the fish eaters was essentially the same as that of the control group, while the vegetarian group reduced their intake of AA to virtually zero (no great surprise, since AA is not found in plant foods).

AA gives rise to inflammatory prostaglandins which are hormone-like substances associated with anxiety and depression.

In another study, which used a cross-sectional design, the same team of researchers also found that vegetarians reported significantly less negative emotion than omnivores.

Study subjects with the highest intake of EPA, DHA and AA had the worst mental health, while those with the highest intake of the plant-derived short-chain Omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid, and the Omega-6 fat linoleic acid, experienced better mood.

These two studies support the linkage between plant-based diets and improved mood. Studies show that people feel better within a very short period of making their dietary changes.

Just one more reason to try out a vegetarian lifestyle!

Article from Hopewood contributor Robyn Chuter.

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