Amidst a bevy of studies surgesting red meat consumption is bad for your body, Australian researchers say not eating enough of it is linked to depression and anxiety.
Associate Professor Felice Jacka and colleagues from Deakin University’s Barwon Psychiatric Research Unit have studied the relationship between the consumption of beef and lamb and the presence of depressive and anxiety disorders in more than 1,000 women from the Geelong region.
“We had originally thought that red meat might not be good for mental health, as studies from other countries had found red meat consumption to be associated with physical health risks, but it turns out that it actually may be quite important,” Jacka said.
“When we looked at women consuming less than the recommended amount of red meat in our study, we found that they were twice as likely to have a diagnosed depressive or anxiety disorder as those consuming the recommended amount.”
The study, published in the April issue of the Italian-based journal Psychotherapy Psychosomatics, found that even when the overall healthiness of the women’s diets and other factors such as their socio-economic status, physical activity levels, smoking, weight and age were taken into account, the relationship between low red meat intake and mental health remained. “Interestingly, there was no relationship between other forms of protein, such as chicken, pork, fish or plant-based proteins, and mental health,” Jacka said in a release.
“Vegetarianism was not the explanation either. Only 19 women in the study were vegetarians, and the results were the same when they were excluded from the study analyses.”
That said, the study doesn’t suggest it’s a good idea to eat too much red meat either.
“We found that regularly eating more than the recommended amount of red meat was also related to increased depression and anxiety,” Jacka said. Given the results of this study, Jacka said she believes following the recommended weekly intake of red meat could boost mental health.