Australian study links insufficient red meat with anxiety in women

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 26th March 2012

Researchers at Deakin University, in Victoria, have found that eating less than the recommended amount of red meat is related to depression and anxiety in women.

Deakin University’s Associate Professor Felice Jacka investigated 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 of the State of Victoria.

The results of the study have been published in the current edition of the journal ‘Psychotherapy Psychosomatics’.

The study found that women who ate less than the recommended amount of red meat were twice as likely to have a diagnosed depressive or anxiety disorder.

Associate Professor Jacka said, “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.

“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,” Professor Jacka said.

Interestingly, the study found no relationship between other forms of protein, such as chicken, pork, fish or plant-based proteins, and mental health.

Professor Jacka said, “Even when we took into account the overall healthiness of the women’s diets, as well as other factors such as their socioeconomic status, physical activity levels, smoking, weight and age, the relationship between low red meat intake and mental health remained.

“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.”

Given the results of this study, Associate Professor Jacka believes following the recommended weekly intake of red meat could boost mental health.

She said, “It seems that eating a moderate amount of lean red meat, which is roughly three to four small, palm-sized serves a week, may be important.”