There are many positive outcomes that come along with partaking in a vegetarian diet. Recently an article was published inNutrition Journal that approaches some of the psychological effects that differ between vegetarian and omnivorous diets. The article introduces a new study that has surfaced that presents a theory that vegetarians are happier than their meat-eating counterparts. This is exciting news, as this study will likely open the doors to further research and development of the effects of a vegetarian diet on mood stability, depression, stress and anxiety.

The study published was conducted on an American population of Seventh Day Adventists where the group was split 4:5, vegetarian to omnivore. The Seventh Day Adventists were chosen from two communities; Phoenix, Arizona and Santa Barbara, California, to participate in the study because the group was particularly homogeneous in their lifestyle choices and their exposure to external stimuli. The volunteers for this study could not participate if they were pregnant, lactating, been diagnosed with chronic diseases that affect mental health, or were regular users of mood-altering medications or supplements. The study consisted of three questionnaires. One of the questionnaires measured food frequency (FFQ), while the other two measured psychometric characteristics through the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) and the Profile of Mood States (POMS).

The variation between the two dietary groups was astonishing! Vegetarians scored lower on depression tests and their mood profiles were more positive than their omnivorous peers. Interestingly enough, the vegetarians studied had significantly lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that are naturally found in fish. EPA and DHA are critical regulators of brain cell function and structure, and the study contradicts the belief that diets that are depleted or low in these omega-3 fatty acids can lead to impaired mood states.Overall, the results appeared that vegetarians are a happier population than omnivores!

The study of the psychological effects of vegetarian and vegan diets, particularly of the effects these dietary choices on moods, is a topic I hope will be researched further.  Please keep in mind that although the results of this study were substantial, all 138 of the Seventh Day Adventists have limited intake of processed food, as well as have high intakes of fruits and vegetables. The study is not aiming to dissuade the dietary intake of fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but simply explaining that plant sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are available. We are happy to see a study like this go underway, however, since it used such a small subset of the population, one religion/culture, we would love to see it expanded to a larger and more diverse population!

Whatever reason behind your dietary choices, I hope you’re eating food that leads you to happiness and a positive lifestyle. What you eat has a lot to with how your body will function and your overall moods, so treat your body well… Vegetarian or not.

-Hannah Bybee