Investigating the relationship between the consumption of beef and lamb and the presence of anxiety disorders in over 1,000 women, they found that those eating less than the recommended amount were twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as those consuming the recommended amount.
“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,” said associate professor Felice Jacka.
“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,” she added.
The researchers did not find the same relationship between anxiety and other types of protein, such as chicken, pork, fish or plant-based proteins. “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,” Jacka added.
However, the study showed that eating more than the recommended amount of red meat every day could also be detrimental to mental health.
“We already know that the overall quality of your diet is important to mental health. But it seems that eating a moderate amount of lean red meat, which is roughly three to four small, palm-sized servings a week, may also be important,” said Jacka, adding that grass-fed meat contained higher levels of nutrients and Omega-3 than grain-fed livestock, and that consumers should stick to it.
The results are published in the current edition of the journal Psychotherapy Psychosomatics.