Food and Behaviour Research

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Meat consumption, depressive symptomatology and cardiovascular disease incidence in apparently healthy men and women: highlights from the ATTICA cohort study (2002-2012).

Kouvari M, Panagiotakos DB, Chrysohoou C, Yannakoulia M, Georgousopoulou EN, Tousoulis D, Pitsavos C; ATTICA study Investigators. (2020) Nutritional Neuroscience  Apr 11:1-10. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2020.1750169. [Epub ahead of print] 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts via PubMed here



To evaluate the association of meat consumption with prevalent depressive symptomatology and cardiovascular disease (CVD) incidence in apparently healthy individuals.


ATTICA study was conducted during 2001-2012 including 
n = 1514 men and n = 1528 women (aged >18 years old) from the greater Athens area, Greece. At baseline, depressive symptomatology through Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (range 20-80) and meat consumption (total meat, red, white and processed meat) through validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire were assessed. Follow-up (2011-2012) was achieved in n = 2020 participants (n = 317 cases); n = 845 participants with complete psychological metrics were used for the primary analysis.


Ranking from 1st to 3
rd total meat consumption (low to high) tertiles, participants assigned in 2nd tertile had the lowest depressive-symptomatology scoring (p<0.001). This trend was retained in multiadjusted logistic regression analysis; participants reporting moderate total and red meat consumption had ∼20% lower likelihood to be depressed (i.e. Zung scale<45) compared with their 1st tertile counterparts (Odds Ratio (OR)total meat 0.82, 95% Confidence Interval (95%CI) (0.60, 0.97) and OR red meat 0.79 95%CI (0.45, 0.96)).

Non-linear associations were revealed; 2-3 serving/week total meat and 1-2 servings/week red meat presented the lowest odds of depressive symptomatology (all 
ps<0.05). These U-shape trends seemed to attenuate the aggravating effect of depressive symptomatology on CVD hard endpoints. All aforementioned associations were more evident in women (all ps for sex-related interaction<0.05).


The present findings generate the hypothesis that moderate total meat consumption and notably, red meat may be more beneficial to prevent depressed mood and in turn hard CVD endpoints.


This large-scale population study found that moderate meat consumption (compared with either high or low meat consumption) was associated with the lowest risks for both depressive symptoms and heart disease.

These findings were also more promounced in women than in men.

This was a high-quality 'prospective' study, involving 10-year follow-up of a representative sample of apparently healthy adults from the Athens area in Greece.

The results are important in illustrating that any physical and mental health benefits from so-called 'plant-based' diets are likely to be confined to those that reduce, rather than eliminate, meat and other animal-derived foods.

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