People that keep to the vegan diet can be vulnerable to depression because of nutritional deficiencies.
This research will examine the question of whether vegans believe they are receiving all the nutrients required for a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, it will discover whether these individuals are more vulnerable to depression due to nutritional deficiencies that may result from their diet. This information will be obtained via a questionnaire that will be administered to all users of the Vegan Australia website (http://www.veganaustralia.org.au/) and the official page of the community on Facebook. For today, there is no enough research concerning the way vegans think about the influence of their nutrition on health. Even though there are many observational data, the study lacks the qualitative aspect. Thus, this issue needs more in-depth research in specific geographical areas.
Vegans are more likely to develop depression due to their specific nutrition since, when keeping to a diet, they do not receive fats and vitamins enough to support a normal functioning of a body and psychological well-being. Specifically, Vitamin B12 influences the mood of a person; the lack of it can cause severe depressive states. In the vegan culture, depression, as well as other consequences of vegan dietary nutrition, is prevented by means of taking specific vitamin supplements in order to avoid associated symptoms. Since it has been scientifically proven that people with high physical activity experience fewer chances of developing depression, sport is one of the non-nutritional methods that can help vegans avoid this health complication.
This research will strive to answer the two questions:
Do individuals that keep to the vegan diet feel more depressed than people with common nutrition do?
Do vegans take nutrition supplements or take any other actions in order to compensate the lacking substances in their bodies?
Aims and Objectives -
The primary aim of the proposed research is to provide more in-depth information to either prove or refute an assumption that people who follow the vegan lifestyle are more likely to develop depression than other people do. In order to achieve this goal, a thorough analysis of the peer-reviewed literature, as well as articles published in medical websites by practicing doctors, will be made Moreover, a survey of the users of the Vegan Australia website and Facebook community will be conduct; the results will be incorporated in the research.
A Brief Overview of the Relevant Literature in this Field
According to Nordqvist (2015), the main food of vegans, including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes, is cholesterol-free and low in saturated fats, as well as fats, in general. In his work, On Vegetarianism (1975), Friedman analyzes two cases in an attempt to develop a psychological view on the phenomenon of veganism and its etiology. He also provides stories of people that claimed to become happier after refusing the animal food; these facts demonstrate that depression can face not only these individuals (1975). Dr. Mercola (2012) argues that vegetarian diets lead to severe vitamin B12 deficiency that cannot be fully substituted by any available for today analogs. The first signs of the deficiency include changes in the mood and depression; however, further results of B12 hunger are much more severe. This assumption is supported by Woo, Kwok, and Celermajer (2014). They provide scientific proof of the vitamin B12 deficiency that is highly prevalent in vegetarians in Australia, Italy, Germany, and Austria, as well as in India and Hong Kong. In these countries, vegans rarely take vitamin B12 fortified food or vitamin B12 supplements. Pawlak, Lester, & Babatunde (2014) also claim that vegetarians, especially vegans, should pay special attention to ensure an adequate vitamin B12 intake. A vegan dietitian, Dr. Fuhrman (2006), agrees that strict a vegan diet inevitably causes the B-12 deficiency and urges vegans to take supplements and multivitamins or consume food that was fortified with vitamin B12. In their work, Vitamin B12 in Health and Disease, OLeary and Samman (2010) prove that vitamin B12 deficiency is common mainly due to the limited dietary intake of animal food or malabsorption of the vitamin. Coppen and Bolander-Gouaille (2005) present another scientific study. They assert that vitamin B12 and folic acid lower depressive symptoms and help improve response to antidepressants. Craig (2009) conducted a research in order to get information about the nutrition of vegans and stated that micronutrients of special concern included omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D, B-12, and calcium. He claims that, unless vegans regularly consume food that is fortified with these nutrients, appropriate supplements should be consumed. Norris, a registered dietitian, in his article Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It? (n.d.), argues that there are no reliable and unfortified plant sources of vitamin B12; he calls any opposing assertions rumors. In their research, Beezhold, Johnston, and Daigle (2010) have found out that people on a vegan diet did not show tendencies towards depression during the research period; however, they noted that their emotional well-being was caused by physical activities that were likely to improve their psychological state. Gill, Womack, and Safranek (2014) point out that depression can be mitigated by means of physical exercise when monotherapy is used. It relieves symptoms more effectively than a few other approaches. According to Hogg-Kollars, Mortimore, and Snow (2011), who have examined the exact relationship between nutrition and mental health during and after pregnancy, depression is more prevalent in women with vegetarian diets. According to the data provided by NIH (n.d.), vegans often get vitamin B12 in a form of cyanocobalamin. Nevertheless, it is emphasized that the human bodys ability to absorb vitamin B12 from dietary supplements is limited. Cox (2014) also underlines that B12 supplements can treat a deficiency, but dietitians recommend getting the vitamin from food, if possible, before trying a supplement.
In the further research, a survey addressing the vegans via the Vegan Australia website will be conducted. The participation in the study will be voluntary. The researcher plans to contact the members of the vegan community in Australia and get a written informed consent from all participants before they complete the questionnaire. The poll will be announced via email, Facebook, and official website. All participants should be at least 18 years old. In the study, the researcher will stick to the principle of no maleficence. In such a manner, it ensures doing no harm to the participants of the survey that will be conduct in a highly confidential and respectful way.
Moreover, the researcher will follow the principles of anonymity and confidentiality; thus, the poll will not be personalized, only the gender and age of the questioned will be defined. As for the security, the collected data will be stored in a protected cloud disk with a limited admission of the researcher and the course tutor for the research period (1 month). In the study itself, only general data will be used. At the end of the research, the information will be gathered and further stored in the cloud disk with limited access. No deception will be used in order to make the research successful. After the study is complete, the participants will not be informed about its focus since it is likely to violate the do no harm principle. The outcome can influence the participants personal belief and convictions. Thus, the disclosure of any information is not welcome. Such research outcomes as general tendencies among the questioned divided into male, female, age groups, and terms of being a vegan will be disclosed only in the research paper. Despite the accuracy, there still will be a few limitations of the study. The research will be limited in time, because of the deadline of the assignment itself. Since participation is voluntary, the research will not present the full information. The study is geographically limited; it will focus only on the continent of Australia. However, it is possible that people outside the country will take part in the questionnaire, as well.
Contribution of the Proposed Study to the Field
The research will contribute to the current state of knowledge concerning the research topic by means of providing a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of a vegan lifestyle in terms of the psychological well-being of a person. Moreover, it will unfold the conflicts around the question of what is more dangerous to the human health and well-being: eating meat or keeping to a strict vegan diet.
For the further research, a questionnaire on the Vegan Australia official website and Facebook page of the community will be conducted. It will include a few questions to define whether vegans are more disposed to depression than omnivores, who follow a healthy lifestyle, and what action vegans should take to avoid depressive states. The proposed research supposes to prove that the vegan diet increases the depression chances and find out what people with vegan lifestyle do to avoid depression, whether they are physically active, practice yoga, or take any specific vitamin supplements. The research will become an important contribution to the field of medical psychology and help resolve the controversy between the followers and opponents of the vegan lifestyle by providing clear scientific facts.