Food & Beverage

Eat more meat? Plant-based diets may hike mental health risks: Report

Vegetarian diets may increase mental health risks

Looks like Paleo dieters may be on to something.

The trend of vegetarianism— along with the perceived health and social pitfalls attached to meat eating—may have a side effect: emotional and mental problems. In a new article, Women's Health reports that indulging meatless diets, while having undeniable health virtues, may also come with risks that include depression, panic and obsessive compulsive behavior.

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The publication cited anecdotes along with Australian and German studies showing that people who consumed plant-based diets were more prone to depression, panic attacks and anxiety. Doctors who spoke to Women's Health acknowledged the link between a lack of animal proteins and a rise in emotional problems.

Women's Health cited the experience of a Columbia University psychiatrist who treated a physically active 35-year-old woman who's energy had "flatlined" and was suffering panic attacks after embracing vegetarianism. After adding meat back into her diet, the woman's energy rebounded and she saw her instances of emotional breakdowns plummet.

The nutritional value of eating meat has always been controversial, but the debate has taken on a new veneer in recent years. Consumption of beef, pork and chicken continues to grow—more than 170 million tons of beef and pork are produced annually around the world, according to the USDA. However, carnivores have given birth to a new movement that eschews antibiotic and steroid-injected animal proteins.

In particular, the popular Paleolithic diet enthusiastically encourages eating meat and vegetables, but avoiding processed foods, sugar and alcohol.

In October, The World Health Organization drew an explicit link between red meat and cancer, touching off a new round of debate over the merits of eating beef and pork.

The Women's Health article can be found on its website.