A study conducted found a correlation between the adaptation of a vegetarian diet and an elevated risk of mental illness (neuroticism, major depression, OCD, phobias, etc) in comparison to a matched non-vegetarian group which took socio-economic factors into account (so that it wasn't just elite, financially well-off vegetarians vs. trailer trash junk food eaters). One of the possible reasons listed for the high-rate of depression and social anxiety was how vegetarians negatively define themselves by what they don't eat (ie, meat).
What would they find if they polled the Paleo community?
I always considered becoming a vegetarian as a sign of an already existing mental illness, not a contributing factor.
My n=1 experience is that vegetarianism greatly contributed to 10 years of depression and anti-depressants. Once I began eating a Paleo diet, I was able to eliminate the drugs for the first time in my adult life. I wish I had known that I might be doing myself such a disservice by trying to eat "responsibly."
There's nothing wrong with vegetarianism, as long as you don't replace meat with tofu or make other silly choices. I'm practically vegetarian right now, apart from the occasional oysters and liver.
I think the problem here is the lack of fat-soluble vitamins.
Vegetarianism (and by extension veganism) has been linked time and time again with eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa/Bulimia/EDNOS.
Many young men and women who develop eating disorders often start out as vegetarians and severely restrict their fat intake.
I have been vegetarian for about 5 years before I got majors health complaints, which eventually resulted in serious disease and I believe my diet to be the most important factor contributing to it. I believe that there are two main reasons why a purely vegetarian diet can be unhealthy:
Long-term starvation: lack of nutrients that are only or mostly found in animal products
High in carbohydrates, low in protein, low in fat: vegetarians usually eat high carbohydrate diets, with lots of grains/grainy products and very little protein and fat. The protein they eat often comes from products like seitan (almost pure gluten... poison!), fat is nearly always absent.
Is vegetarianism always bad? I don't think so. Is it hard to live healthily in the long-term on a vegetarian diet? Most definitely. The problem is most of the issues only occur after having been vegetarian for a very long time, while (a) the damage has already been done and (b) most people don't associate their complaints with the diet.
As for the mental illness, I believe it is known that high-carbohydrate diets can contribute to mental illnesses, and that low-carbohydrate diets can contribute to relieving symptoms associated with mental illness (that's the point of the GAPS-diet).
A while after becoming vegetarian my anxiety and depression increased. It's that that i didnt have it before but the diet made it worse, to the point where i became agoraphobic and it brought out other phobias as well. Once i went back to animal meat the symtoms decreased but did not totally go away. My opinion would be that if you are predisposed to mental illness a vegitarian diet can manifest symptoms. I think it's partially due to surgar highs and lows from eating a high carb diet and vitamin deficienties.
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