Why are vegetarians often happier than meat eaters?

There is a lot of scientific evidence that meat, eggs and dairy products are associated with an increased risk of most physical diseases. However, the relationship of a plant-based diet with a good mood was revealed relatively recently, interestingly, under rather unexpected circumstances.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of the few Christian groups that encourages its followers to become vegetarian and vegan along with abstaining from smoking and alcohol, promoting physical activity and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle. However, following the above prescriptions is not a prerequisite for being a member of the church. A significant number of Adventists consume animal products.

So, a group of researchers set up an interesting experiment in which they observed the “level of happiness” of meat eaters and vegetarians in a faith-based church. Since the concept of happiness is subjective, the researchers asked Adventists to record the occurrence of negative emotions, anxiety, depression, and stress. The researchers noted two things: First, vegetarians and vegans consumed significantly less arachidonic acid, a substance that is found only in animal products and contributes to brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. It has also been observed that vegetarians have increased circulating concentrations of antioxidants with less oxidative stress.

The Adventist study is noteworthy, but it didn’t show whether the average non-religious omnivore would be happier by cutting out meat. Thus, it was carried out. They were divided into 3 groups: the first continued to eat meat, eggs and dairy products. The second ate only fish (from meat products), the third – milk, without eggs and meat. The study lasted only 2 weeks, but showed significant results. According to the results, the third group noted significantly fewer stressful, depressive and anxious situations, as well as a more stable mood.

Omega-6 fatty acid (arachidonic) is present throughout the body. It is necessary for the proper functioning of almost all organs and performs many “tasks”. Because this acid is found in high concentrations in chicken, eggs, and other meats, omnivores have 9 times the levels of arachidonic acid in their bodies (according to research). In the brain, an overabundance of arachidonic acid can cause a “neuroinflammatory cascade” or brain inflammation. Many studies have linked depression to arachidonic acid. One of them speaks of a possible increase in the risk of suicide.

An Israeli group of researchers accidentally discovered a link between arachidonic acid and depression: (the researchers initially tried to find a link with omega-3, but did not find it).

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