A Vegetarian Diet and Its Effect On Your Mood
An Phung is a multimedia journalist based in New York City. She has contributed to NYTimes.com, Patch.com and City Limits. She also spent time reporting in Indonesia where she covered stories about the country's growing illicit drug trade. An graduated from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in international reporting.
Follow me on Twitter @anhaiphung
What is the Big Idea?
Eating meat or fish can make a crab out of you, according to a study published by Nutrition Journal.
Omnivorous diets are high in arachidonic acid (AA) which changes the brain in a way that affects mood. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), fats prevalent in fish, are suppose to combat the negative effects of AA. However, the study reported significantly worse moods in fish eaters than vegetarians despite higher intakes of EPA and DHA. This is the first study to examine the impact of a meat and fish diet on an omnivore's mood.
Thirty nine meat-eating participants were assigned to one of three diets. A control group ate meat, fish or poultry daily. A second group ate fish 3-4 times weekly but no meat. A third group ate strictly vegetarian. After two weeks, participants completed a questionnaire to assess their moods. The vegetarian group reduced their EPA, DHA and AA intake and the fish eaters increased their EPA and DHA intakes. The mood were unchanged for the omnivores and fish eaters but the vegetarians showed higher mood scores after two weeks.
What is the Significance?
"Reducing meat, fish, and poultry may improve some domains of short-term mood state in modern omnivores," the report concludes. "Exploring this phenomenon further is warranted, as reductions in dietary meat, fish, and poultry would not only reduce health risks but could benefit the environment as well."
Marion Nestle, nutritionist and NYU professor, argues that a vegetarian diet is indeed healthier. But small amounts of meat doesn't hurt. And in developing countries, "where kids don’t have enough food, a little meat thrown in makes a big nutritional difference."
Watch this video to hear Marion Nestle weigh in on the pros and cons of vegetarianism:
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