Food and Behaviour Research

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Vegetarian diets and depressive symptoms among men

Hibbeln JR, Northstone K, Evans J, Golding J (2017) J Affect Disord.  2017 Jul 28;225: 13-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.07.051. [Epub ahead of print] 

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Abstract:

BACKGROUND:

Vegetarian diets are associate with cardiovascular and other health benefits, but little is known about mental health benefits or risks.

AIMS:

To determine whether self-identification of vegetarian dietary habits is associated with significant depressive symptoms in men.

METHOD:

Self-report data from 9668 adult male partners of pregnant women in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) included identification as vegetarian or vegan, dietary frequency data and the Edinburgh Post Natal Depression Scale (EPDS). Continuous and binary outcomes were assessed using multiple linear and logistic regression taking account of potential confounding variables including: age, marital status, employment status, housing tenure, number of children in the household, religion, family history of depression previous childhood psychiatric contact, cigarette and alcohol consumption.

RESULTS:

Vegetarians [n = 350 (3.6% of sample)], had higher depression scores on average than non-vegetarians (mean difference 0.96 points [95%CI + 0.53, + 1.40]) and a greater risk for EPDS scores above 10 (adjusted OR = 1.67 [95% CI: 1.14,2.44]) than non-vegetarians after adjustment for potential confounding factors.

CONCLUSIONS:

Vegetarian men have more depressive symptoms after adjustment for socio-demographic factors. Nutritional deficiencies (e.g. in cobalamin or iron) are a possible explanation for these findings, however reverse causation cannot be ruled out.