Meat and mental health: A meta-analysis of meat consumption, depression, and anxiety

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URL: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2021.1974336

Journal: Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition

Publication Date: 10/2021

Summary: In this meta-analysis, we examined the quantitative relation between meat consumption or avoidance, depression, and anxiety. in June 2020, we searched five online databases for primary studies examining differences in depression and anxiety between meat abstainers and meat consumers that offered a clear (dichotomous) distinction between these groups. Twenty studies met the selection criteria representing 171,802 participants with 157,778 meat consumers and 13,259 meat abstainers. we calculated the magnitude of the effect between meat consumers and meat abstainers with bias correction (Hedges’s g effect size) where higher and positive scores reflect better outcomes for meat consumers. Meat consumption was associated with lower depression (Hedges’s g=0.216, 95% Ci [0.14 to 0.30], p < .001) and lower anxiety (g=0.17, 95% Ci [0.03 to 0.31], p = .02) compared to meat abstention. Compared to vegans, meat consumers experienced both lower depression (g=0.26, 95% Ci [0.01 to 0.51], p = .041) and anxiety (g=0.15, 95% Ci [-0.40 to 0.69], p = .598). Sex did not modify these relations. Study quality explained 58% and 76% of between-studies heterogeneity in depression and anxiety, respectively. The analysis also showed that the more rigorous the study, the more positive and consistent the relation between meat consumption and better mental health. The current body of evidence precludes causal and temporal inferences.

Key Takeaways

Individuals who consume meat had lower rates of anxiety and depression than vegans.

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