Is veganism linked to depression?

Leading a vegan lifestyle is believed to be healthy and is a growing trend in many countries. However, the shortage of nutrients due to the absence of meat in a vegan’s diet may cause health problems.

This article addresses some of these concerns.

Veganism and vitamin B12 deficiency

Vegans or vegetarians are likely to suffer a deficiency in B12, a vital vitamin in the production of certain brain chemicals that manipulate our mood and other brain functions.

Vitamin B12 must be consumed on a daily basis as the human body does not produce this vitamin itself. B12 is plentiful in red meat, a variety of fish and other animal products, that vegans do not consume.

However, a deficiency in vitamin B12 could lead to disorders in the digestion tract.

Veganism and depression

There is a link between a deficiency in vitamin B12 and depression although it’s not so clear.

In 2005, an article published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reported that studies revealed that vitamin B12 vitamin was a good form of treatment for depression and that a deficiency in this vitamin increased levels of depression.

Serotonin, is a chemical in the brain thought to be responsible for this.

Serotonin is manufactured in our brain and transmits messages through different parts of this organ. Hence, it has both a direct and indirect impact on most of our brain cells.

Since Vitamin B12 is crucial to the production of serotonin, it is generally believed that a vegan risks a higher chance of developing some mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

However, depression is quite a complex mental disorder that presents many differing symptoms and more research is needed for a better understanding of this illness.

Some recent research also indicated that serotonin played too insignificant a role to be a contributory factor to depression.

Being vegan brings many health benefits while decreasing the risks of developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer thanks to its meals that are rich in vitamins, fibre and minerals.

Nevertheless, the severe lack of vitamin B12 is cause for concern. Therefore, vegans should consider taking a supplement to avoid a deficiency in such an important vitamin.

This article first appeared in and was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.