Doctor's Note

For more on mood and food, check out these videos:
Antioxidants and Depression
Exercise vs. Drugs for Depression
The Wrong Way to Boost Serotonin
Fighting the Blues With Greens?
The Best Way to Boost Serotonin

And check out my other videos on vegetarians

For more context, also see my associated blog posts: Inflammation, Diet, and “Vitamin S”How To Boost Serotonin NaturallySaffron vs. Prozac for Depression; and How Probiotics Affect Mental Health.

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  • I had read elsewhere that folks with some AA did better with DHA supplementation.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      If you remember where you saw that please pass it along.

  • Kbachman

    I’m wondering if seventh day adventists might be more positive than the general population. Has a similar study been done of vegetarians who are more representative of the general population?

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      The experimental and control groups were both randomized groups of Adventists, so one would expect this to not have played a role, but to answer your question, no, I haven’t seen anything similar. I’ll keep my eyes out though. Thank you for the question!

  • FrozenMermaidN6VEGAN

    Thanks for this video, it is very informative! By the way, is it possible for us to get a copy of the whole original study? One of my friends is very interested, and asked me about it.

    • DrDons

      Dr. Greger’s link gives the whole article if it is available for free. Since he only gives the abstract here you would have to pay for it. Many journals charge for articles. If you have access to a medical library or even a good science library you might be able to have them order it for you. I’m fortunate to have access to a medical librarian so I just request the article. As an alternative you might address a letter to the author of the study asking for a reprint. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

  • yogachick

    Dr.Greger, I was wondering, can the hormones found in meat and dairy, both naturally occurring and the additional hormones that the animals are given on factory farms, cause mood swings? Would a person suffering from a mood disorder benefit from eating a plant-based diet and ridding their body of all the extra hormones found in meat and dairy?

    • Dave T

      I know this is a year old, but on this site I have seen plenty of indications that the naturally occurring hormones in cow (and goat) milk are biologically active in humans. Organic milk doesn’t help since milk naturally has hormones even when nothing is added. For example, look up acne on the site here and you’ll find plenty of articles about how milk may exacerbate acne (which is widely regarded as being caused by hormones, hence the reason it flares up in the teen years… though it can persist for much longer perhaps due to diet). I’m not sure about hormones in meat.

  • bdirnbac

    In considering the video associated with the study, “Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: a pilot randomized controlled trial,”
    I find this research and video confusing when compared to the Wikipedia entry on Arachidonic Acid (ARA). See:
    There it’s noted that ARA is crucial for: muscle growth. {“Through its conversion to active components such as the prostaglandin PGF2alpha, arachidonic acid is necessary for the repair and growth of skeletal muscle tissue.[10] This role makes ARA an important dietary component in support of the muscle anabolic process.”};
    and for brain health including early neurological development {“Arachidonic acid is one of the most abundant fatty acids in the brain, and is present in similar quantities to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The two account for approximately 20% of its fatty acid content.[12] Like DHA, neurological health is reliant upon sufficient levels of arachidonic acid. Among other things, arachidonic acid helps to maintain hippocampal cell membrane fluidity.[13] It also helps protect the brain from oxidative stress by activating peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma.[14] ARA also activates syntaxin-3 (STX-3), a protein involved in the growth and repair of neurons.[15]”} What about dietary arachidonic acid and inflammation? “Under normal metabolic conditions, the increased consumption of arachidonic acid is unlikely to increase inflammation. ARA is metabolized to both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory molecules.[20] Studies giving between 840 mg and 2,000 mg per day to healthy individuals for up to 50 days have shown no increases in inflammation or related metabolic activities.[20][21][22][23] Increased arachidonic acid levels are actually associated with reduced pro-inflammatory IL-6 and IL-1 levels, and increased anti-inflammatory tumor necrosis factor-beta.[24] This may result in a reduction in systemic inflammation.” Finally from Wikipedia: “Health effects of arachidonic acid supplementation – Arachidonic acid supplementation in daily dosages of 1,000-1,500 mg for 50 days has been well tolerated during several clinical studies, with no significant side-effects reported. All common markers of health including kidney and liver function,[22] serum lipids,[26] immunity,[27] and platelet aggregation[21] appear to be unaffected with this level and duration of use. Furthermore, higher concentrations of ARA in muscle tissue may be correlated with improved insulin sensitivity.[28] Arachidonic acid supplementation by healthy adults appears to offer no toxicity or significant safety risk.”
    So is ARA necessary for muscular and brain health, or should it be eliminated from diet? Could these mood test results be an example of the placebo effect? The omnivores who became vegan understood that they were radically changing their diet unlike the other subjects; in a double-blind experiment the subjects do not have such information.

    • Gary Loewenthal

      Even if it was placebo, hey it’s working. But I doubt it. Vegetarians often face marginalization, negative stereotypes, and a barrage of meat promotion. The study may underestimate the mood-enhacing effects of a veg diet.

  • April Barnswell

    I transitioned quickly from an omnivorous diet to a vegan diet in January 2012. Almost immediately, I noticed that my mood improved. My chronic daily anxiety (I awoke every morning in fight-or-flight mode) and low-level depression that I had suffered from for years improved almost immediately, and within a few weeks they were nonexistent.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

       I’m so glad to hear!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post Inflammation, Diet, and “Vitamin S”!

  • NurseK

    I regularly see patients fill out a self depression analysis  survey before and after their 18 day lifestyle program and our statistics indicate very high upward shifts in mood with the vegan diet.

  • Kathy

    I heard when total cholesterol is too low…under 130 or so one can experience anxiety/depression….happened to me…..feel much better now my total cholesterol is 170

  • Linda

    This explains why my sister who has had a long standing mental health issue has been significantly better since she has become vegan.

  • Erin Moss

    I still have serious mental health issues, even though I was a vegetarian from age 11 to 15, vegan from 15 to 22, and then “mostly vegan” with a few backyard eggs a year for the last year.
    I have no doubt that my diet and active lifestyle plays a huge part in keeping me healthy, but I don’t think I would be alive without the help of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. My body stopped producing enough serotonin when I was an adolescent. Even with healthy eating, I can’t overcome the deficiency, but merely maintain my levels – is there a way that I can get my body producing the good stuff properly again? I already go out of my way to eat plant-based foods high in L-trypothan.
    I also have started on EPA supplements, to overcome the “brain fog” caused by the anti-depressants. I’m told to get 1000mg a day. I would prefer to try and boost these levels with food, rather than supplements, but it is hard to get enough from food-alone. Do you think going on the supplements for a few months is enough to boost this, and then I’ll be able to maintain this with food naturally high in EPA?
    I look forward to your opinion – thank you!

    • guest

      Avoid all grains, especially gluten grains. This changed my life as a vegan. Most beans as well. Eat romaine, spinach for omega 3. Lots of fruit and veggies. Eliminate caffeine. But please, no wheat, no gluten grains! If you want to get specific, check out the “SCD” diet. Good luck.

      • Erin Moss

        I’m coeliac, so I don’t eat gluten. I eat fresh greens everyday, and my omega3 (and 6) levels are fine. I need beans for protein.
        I treated my mental illness successfully with medication and therapy. Plant-based diets aren’t a magical cure-all. I love being vegan, but medication has improved my life just as much.

  • YourMommaSoFat

    I felt a bit better when I went Vegan but I felt worlds better when I started counting how much fat I was eating and then reducing it. I also lost a crazy amount of weight and moved out of home where I was surrounded by negative depressing family members. I was depressed in that time from fat and negative people.

  • Mindaugas Raulinaitis

    Conclusions: In Western cultures vegetarian diet is associated with an elevated risk of mental disorders.

    Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey
    International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:67 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-67

  • Anna

    Hello…. I have a 3 month old baby and its normal to have poor or disrupted sleep in the first few months. About 3 weeks ago i lost my ability to fall asleep. I just cannot fall asleep. Feel like a zombie. Tried all kinds of homeopathic and over the counter sleep aids, ambien, lunesta, and i still cannot fall asleep. I took xanax one night and i slept, then i took xanax the following night and was wide awake all night. It is fair to say that in the last 3 weeks i have not slept more than 20 hrs. Its a pretty exhausting and miserable way of being so i went to see a sleep specialist. Going to a sleep study in few days. When the doc asked me if i did anything different the day i stopped being able to fall asleep, it didnt register with me to tell him that that same day i went on the south beach diet – no fruits/carbs, only low fat meat and veggies…..i lost 10 lbs in a week…. Reading through the article, is it possible that my drastic elimination of fruits and carbs, along with already disbalanced hormones due to pregnancy/delivery has caused my sleeping disorder? I have introduced carbs and fruits in the past week but still no luck with falling asleep… Perhaps the body needs time to adjust.

    • Justin

      Anna, I am not a health professional but I have a lot of experience with gut health and also sleep issues and I know that when my stomach is upset that I cannot sleep at all sometimes… like right now. I find that eating fermented foods really helps me get to sleep and feel better. Maybe you should try eating more fermented food products like soy kefir, sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables.

  • I went vegan a year ago and it really helped me except that i have terrible mood swings
    and i don’t know how to treat it
    My doctor told me that i’m crazy,and it’s just that i dont have enough protein..
    Can anyone here help me with my situation ?