New research shows that vegetarian diets improve mood

| Post published on May 29, 2015
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VEGETARIAN diets significantly improve mood and lower stress, according to a new study.

The results of the ‘Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: a pilot randomized controlled trial’, were published in Nutrition Journal on February 14.

Researchers divided 39 meat-eaters into three groups and asked them to follow either a vegetarian diet, a meat-based diet, or a fish-based (pescetarian) diet. After just two weeks, vegetarians achieved significantly better results in standardised mood and stress tests. The tests measured mood profile, depression, anxiety and stress.

People who consume meat-based diets have high intake of arachidonic acid (AA) compared to vegetarians. Research shows that high intakes of AA promote changes in the brain that can disturb mood. Although fish contain omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) that have been thought to counteract the negative effects of AA, this research didn’t show any positive effects of fish on mood or stress levels of the volunteers.

The authors of the study suggest that consuming a diet high in meat, fish and poultry may negatively impact mental state while vegetarian diets improve mood and reduce stress. The positive effects of vegetarian diets are attributed to the differences in the types of fats consumed as well as to the higher intake of antioxidants – stress reducing substances found in plant-based foods.

The results have been welcomed by health charity, Viva!Health, who have been leading a series of lectures during the last year on the effect food can have on your mood.

Viva!Health founder & director and nutritional therapist, Juliet Gellatley, says: “It is widely proven that vegetarian and vegan diets are fantastic for your health, in terms of reducing your chances of developing some of the UK’s biggest killer diseases. But plant-based diets are also packed with all the vitamins and nutrients we need for good brain health – and subsequently good mood – as shown in this recent study. We believe it is vital that people experiencing mood disorders are encouraged to take a close look at their diet – and consider what a difference cutting out animal products and consuming more fruit and vegetables could make to their mental health.”

For more information about going vegetarian or vegan, visit or call 0117 940 5190 (Mon-Fri, 9-6).

About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
I joined Viva! as a health campaigner in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. My scientific training helped me research and write numerous reports, guides and fact sheets for Viva! including Meat the Truth, Fish-Free for Life, One in Nine (breast cancer and diet) and the substantial report on the detrimental health effects of consuming dairy; White Lies. This accompanied Viva!’s report The Dark Side of Dairy which spelt out the inherent cruelty of dairy farming. We were the first UK group to take on the dairy industry in this way, and many of our supporters go vegan after reading these reports.

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