October 20, 2015
By Audrey Roen
Meat lovers may not be far fetched in saying that eliminating meat would make them go crazy. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found a link between vegetarian eaters and mental disorders. Well, almost.
A recent study titled, “Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey” investigated the mental health of vegetarians. The study only showed a correlation between a vegetarian diet and an increased risk of developing mental disorders in Western cultures. This means that we can’t start calling all vegetarians crazy.
I identify as a pescetarian: a person who omits meat and poultry but consumes fish, eggs, and dairy. Although I feel great and have been following this diet for almost 8 years, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called crazy for not eating meat.
Let’s take a look at what it means to be a vegetarian, its variations, ups and downs and whether or not you are nuts to try it.
According to the North American Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is an individual that does not eat any kind of meat, poultry, fish or other sea animals. Some variations include: an ovo vegetarian who is someone that does eat eggs, a lacto vegetarian who consumes dairy products, and an ovo – lacto vegetarian who includes both eggs and dairy products. Let’s not forget the vegans who don’t consume any part of or anything that comes from an animal.
There are several to consider when deciding to take on a vegetarian diet. Some positives include: increasing concern for one’s health as well as the environment, a greater compassion for animals and an overall change in food preferences. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegetarians are less likely to develop heart disease, cancers, diabetes, obesity and hypertension in comparison to individuals who eat meat regularly. Finally, it can be an exciting new culinary experience.
A downside includes the need to watch and monitor levels of protein, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D and vitamin B 12. These nutrients are essential to bone building, heart function and muscle contraction. Another thing is that the possibility of weight gain and fat intake still remains, as it is ok to consume desserts and processed carbohydrates as a vegetarian. Finally, Brown University suggests that, when looking at the general population, vegetarian diets are more common among individuals with eating disorders.
So, ultimately, was the WHO right? I don’t believe so. Mental health concerns are intricate and subjective and can arise from a variety of outside factors. However, just like with any kind of dietary modification or restriction people make for themselves, it is possible to take things a little too far. As long as you do your research, supplement your diet (as needed) with the nutrients described above, feed yourself and take care of your body, there is no need for your family or friends to worry.