Does red meat make you happier?

The Week's Editorial Staff

Researchers say that women who eat beef a few times a week run a much smaller risk of depression — but they still have to worry about the negative effects of red meat

It turns out that a juicy, medium-rare steak may be the key to happiness after all. According to a new Australian study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, women who shy away from eating red meat may put their mental health in jeopardy, and run a higher risk of becoming depressed. Here, a guide to the study and why grass-fed beef might not be so bad for you after all:

How did the research work?
The study, led by Professor Felice Jacka of Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, took a look at 1,000 Australian women, and evaluated their mental health based on a variety of factors, including socioeconomic status, physical activity levels, smoking, weight, and age. "We had originally thought that red meat might not be good for mental health," Jacka tells Britain's Telegraph, "but it turns out that it actually may be quite important." 

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How does red meat help us mentally?
The Australian government recommends a small, palm-sized helping of lean red meat (2.2 to 3.5 ounces) three to four times a week. Researchers found that women who consumed less than the recommended amount were twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety than those who regularly ate beef. "Admittedly the study is a bit narrow as they only observed women," notes the Inquisitr.

Does chicken or fish affect happiness?
"Interestingly, there was no relationship between other forms of protein, such as chicken, pork, fish, or plant-based proteins, and mental health," says Jacka. The results were the same when they excluded the 19 women who identified as vegetarians from the analysis. 

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What's in the beef that makes women happy? 
Researchers aren't entirely sure, but the connection might have something to do with the high level of nutrients found in Australia's grass-fed cattle, which are high in heart- and brain-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. In America, the beef industry keeps cows in feedlots and stuffs them with grains, says Jacka, which results "in a much less healthy meat with more saturated fat and fewer healthy fats."

So red meat isn't bad for you?
It can be. And recent research suggests that red meat may be responsible for one in ten early deaths. "So there's a decision to make," says Jamie Condliffe at Gizmodo: "Live long, miserable, and steak-free; or die young, happy, and elbow-deep in burgers. Tough call."

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Sources: Gizmodo, Inquisitr, Telegraph

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