The Amazing Food That Cuts Your Depression Risk 50% It's not what you expect

Regular readers know that I usually look outside the U.S. to find trustworthy studies on nutrition, as well as on physical and mental health.

That’s because Big Food USA wants Americans to gobble lots of carbohydrates (which are far more profitable than meat and vegetables).

So these vested interests fund studies that are tweaked to support the idea that corn and soy are better for you than meat.

Let’s see what the Aussies have to say…

Sad? Anxious? Eat Red Meat

Australia is an interesting place.

Unlike in the U.S., where beef and pork have long been demonized as health destroyers, the Australian government’s dietary recommendations actually specify that one should eat up to four ounces of beef or pork (we’ll collectively call them “red meat”) up to four times weekly.

That’s based on the government’s assessment of worldwide research showing that this amount is associated with good physical health.

Recently, to review whether that recommendation is associated with good mental health, researchers from Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, looked at the diets and mental health statuses of 1,000 women (1).

As it turned out, women who consumed less than the Aussie-recommended amount of red meat had twice the risk of depression or anxiety disorderscompared with those who ate the recommended amount.

Here’s Where It Gets Really Interesting…

According to the study results, there was no relationship between between other kinds of high-protein food, such as fish, chicken, soy protein, etc., and depression/anxiety rates.

Nope, red meat consumption alone accounted for the effect.

So can we say definitively that eating the Australian recommended amount of red meat would lower depression and anxiety rates in the U.S.?

Well, that depends.

As professor Felice Jacka, a psychiatric health expert who led the study put it, “We know that red meat in Australia is a healthy product, as it contains high levels of nutrients, including the omega-3 fatty acids that are important to mental and physical health.”

She added that “This is because cattle and sheep in Australia are largely grass fed. In many other countries, the cattle are kept in feedlots and fed grains, rather than grass. This results in a much less healthy meat…”

Those “other countries” professor Jacka was referencing include the good ol’ U.S., land of feedlots and animal antibiotics, unfortunately.

So if you live in the U.S., you need to seek out grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork to get that effect.

Now, It Must Be Said That…

Association is not causation.

So the fact that eating little or no meat is associated with depression and anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean eating little or no meat causes depression and anxiety.

It’s possible that women who are “naturally” depressed or anxious are especially prone to avoid red meat because — anxious by nature — they believe the mainstream alarmist blather regarding the dangers of this food.

So for them, avoiding meat is a cause, rather than an effect, of their mental distress.

But I don’t think that fully explains what this study found.

There is plenty of evidence out there that a couple of major grass-fed red meat components — omega-3 fatty acids (2) and vitamin B12 (3) — can prevent or relieve mental distress.

So causation is certainly possible. Further, though this Australian study happened to be on women only, the good effects of these nutrients have been seen in studies on men as well.

Bottom Line

Given our million-year evolutionary history with consuming the meat of ruminant animals, it makes perfect sense that eating their meat causes improved physical and mental health.

So though I am an American, I heartily endorse the Aussie recommendation. Eating from 12–16 ounces of grass-fed red meat each week is a terrific health-insurance policy.

There is no need to eat more… In fact, the researchers found that exceeding this amount was also associated with increased rates of depression and anxiety.

If you are unsure of where to get grass-fed beef or pasture-raised pork, check out eatwild.com.

I understand that ethics, expense, digestive issues and more can make some people reluctant to eat grass-fed red meat. If that is your situation, I recommend 1,000 mg of quality fish oil daily, and 500 mcg of vitamin B12 in the methylcobalamin form.

To your robust health,

Brad Lemley

Brad Lemley

Citations

1 Jacka FN, Pasco JA, Williams LJ, et al. Red meat consumption and mood and anxiety disorders. Psychother Psychosom. 2012
2 Osher Y, Belmaker RH. Omega-3 fatty acids in depression: a review of three studies. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2009
3 Coppen A, Bolander-gouaille C. Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. J Psychopharmacol (Oxford). 2005

About Brad Lemley

I am a science journalist who has written for the Washington Post, Discover Magazine and dozens of other national publications. I've written or co-written 10 books, most on health and fitness. I am a passionate advocate for self-directed, nature-based health care, and believe strongly that robust health is within reach of anyone who possesses the right information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *