“Vegetarian diet may cause mental health problems,” warned the website foodworldnews.com.
“Eat more meat? Plant-based diets may hike mental health risks,” reported CNBC in a story filed by the cable channel’s weekend editor.
“Research points to mental health risks associated with meatless diet,” cautioned the CBS owned-and-operated Channel 3 television station in Philadelphia.
Time to treat your depression with a steak?
Was the alarming report from the Centers for Disease Control? The National Institutes of Health? Or the Journal of the American Medical Association?
Nope. The breaking news came from an article in Women’s Health magazine.
“Panic attacks. OCD. Depression. WH investigates the puzzling blow of going meatless,” promised the article which was written by the magazine’s food and nutrition editor.
The “investigation” cited two studies. In one, Australian vegetarians “were 18 percent more likely to report depression and 28 percent more likely to suffer panic attacks and anxiety,” reported Women’s Health.
“A separate German study backs this up, finding that vegetarians were 15 percent more prone to depressive conditions and twice as likely to suffer anxiety disorders,” noted the magazine.
(The German study was small. It compared only 54 vegetarians and 190 “predominantly vegetarian” people to non-vegetarians.)
an important detail
Somehow, Women’s Health and its food and nutrition editor missed a key point of the study. “The adoption of the vegetarian diet tends to follow the onset of mental disorders,” wrote the authors. “We found no evidence for a causal role of vegetarian diet in the etiology of mental disorders.”
Gosh. How did the eagle-eyed editors at Women’s Health overlook those details, which were buried in, oops, the abstract at the very beginning of the study?
At least the German study was…a study.
We couldn’t find the Australian study in a medical library. That’s because it was “based on 50,000 surveys a year conducted by Roy Morgan Research,” a polling firm. We found it on Australia’s SBS.com (Special Broadcasting Service) under the headline “Vegetarians healthy but unhappy: Study.”
You can buy Roy Morgan’s survey for a mere $1,390 Australian dollars (about $1,000).
On second thought, don’t bother. John Lang, who created a “wellness index” used by the Roy Morgan survey, told SBS.com that “the diet isn’t the cause but rather the symptom” of the disorders.
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