Scientific Research & Self-Development Activism
It is widely understood that plant based diets have significant health benefits in reducing risk of diabetes, cancer among other conditions. There are multiple scientific studies linking a plant based diet to improved moods.
A study published by the nutrition journal concludes “Our results suggest that reducing meat, fish, and poultry may improve some domains of short-term mood state in modern omnivores”.
Some possible reasons the researchers included was the ratio of long chain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. This study noted that when long chain omega-6 fatty acids greatly outnumbered the long chain omega-3s, the imbalance was associated with symptoms of depression. The vegetarian had over all lower intakes of omega-6s and omega-3s yet the ratio was the determining factor. Vegan diets are often criticized for low intakes of omega-3s however many plant based sources of omega 3s are widely available.
Another study by the American Public Health Association also points to a similar conclusion. “The complete restriction of flesh foods significantly reduced mood variability in omnivores”. An interesting finding in this study was the lack of significant changes within the fish group. This diet profile modeled a high omega-3, low saturated fat intake, yet no significant differences in mood improvements were noted as seen in the group which avoided all animal flesh.
“FISH participants significantly increased their EPA/DHA intakes and decreased their saturated fat intake but mood scores were not significantly reduced.”
Aside from the fatty acid ratios another possible explanation would be the presence of animal neurotransmitters found in plant foods. Certain neurotransmitters are central to mood and emotional health. Many types of antidepressants are pharmaceutical mechanisms for regulating the balance of these neurotransmitters. This study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry outlined some beneficial plant sources of these neurotransmitters.
“There are some high-content sources of serotonin, melatonin, and tryptophan which can provide the body with these substances. These include plantains, pineapples, bananas, kiwis, plums, and tomatoes for serotonin; white and black mustard, wolfberry seeds, and fenugreek seeds for melatonin”
Arachidonic acid is another possible explanation as highlighted by this study published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. The study concludes that elevations in arachidonic acid metabolism is associated with neuroinflammation. This inflammation within the brain may be causing the stress, anxiety and depression levels reported by the previous survey studies. The only dietary sources of arachidonic acid are of animal origin, including fish.
Another study examining adolescent behavior as it relates to dietary patterns concluded that fast food, confectionery foods and red meat were associated with aggressive and depressive behaviors. While intakes of leafy green vegetables and fruits were associated with over all positive behaviors.
“Better behavioral outcomes were associated with a higher intake of fresh fruit and leafy green vegetables.”
If feeling good about animal welfare or the environment wasn’t enough reason for the plant based diet; we now know the plant based diet can help you feel good on a biological level as well!