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Lower intake of animal-based products links to improved weight status, independent of depressive symptoms and personality in the general population

By Evelyn Medawar, Cornelia Enzenbach, Susanne Röhr, Arno Villringer, Steffi Riedel-Heller, Veronica Witte

Posted 10 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.09.940460

Background: Restricting animal-based products from diet may exert beneficial effects on weight status, however whether this is also true for emotional health is unclear. Moreover, differential personality traits may underlie restrictive eating habits and therefore potentially confound diet-health associations. To systematically assess whether restrictive dietary intake of animal-based products relates to lower weight and higher depressive symptoms, and how this is linked to personality traits in the general population. Methods: Cross-sectional data was taken from the baseline LIFE-Adult study collected from 2011-2014 in Leipzig, Germany (n = 8943). Main outcomes of interest were 12-month dietary frequency of animal-derived products measured using a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), body mass index (BMI) (kg/m2), and the Center of Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Personality traits were assessed in a subsample of n = 7906 using the Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). Findings: Higher restriction of animal-based product intake was associated with a lower BMI, but not depression score. Personality, i.e. lower extraversion, was related to frequency of animal product intake. Further, not diet but personality was significantly associated with depression, i.e. higher neuroticism, lower extraversion, lower agreeableness, lower conscientiousness and higher BMI. The beneficial association with lower weight seemed to be driven by the frequency of meat product intake and not secondary animal products. Likewise, the overall number of excluded food items from the individual diet was associated with a lower BMI and additionally with lower depression scores, also when additionally correcting for differences in personality traits. Interpretation: Higher restriction of animal-based products in the diet was significantly associated with a lower BMI, but not with depressive symptoms scores in a large well-characterized population-based sample of adults. In addition, we found that certain personality traits related to restricting animal-based products - and that those traits, but not dietary habits, explained a considerable amount of variance in depressive symptoms. Upcoming longitudinal studies need to confirm these findings and to test the hypothesis if restricting animal-based products, esp. primary animal products ((processed) meat, wurst), conveys benefits on weights status, hinting to a beneficial relationship of animal-based restricted diets in regard to prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity.

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