“Using research, especially pseudo-scientific research, to validate your life decisions, is ill-informed and shows a lack of courage.”

An Illustration

Confused by the heading?  Let’s use a concrete research question to illustrate my point:

“Are vegans more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression? What if veganism was found to actually cause depression? Would you stop being vegan?”

Today I am presenting four(4) studies on the topic of mood disorder and a vegan diet in order to illustrate the problem with mining for data to support your life choices.  If you find yourself somewhat inpatient and don’t want to read through the logic of this article, allow me to make my point up front.  If you are intrigued, read beyond the following quote:

“Research provides us a direction and curiosity. Don’t use research to justify your choices. The choices we make are ours to own and not to be in any way justified by Dr. Google. Finding a study to back your decision is not only an exercise in confirmation bias, but is also removing you from the responsibility of the decision you are making. There will always be research to contradict your own findings. An educated consumer takes all results into account, not just the results that suits their opinion. Therefore, stand by your decision, take responsibility for it, and leave it at that.”

To prove my point, check out the following articles. Two support the idea that mood disorder and veganism are linked. The other two support the idea that veganism cures mood disorder:

A Vegan Diet Causes Mood and Anxiety Problems

Jill Waldbieser, in her article, “The Scary Mental health Risks of Going Meatless,” asserts that “Today, stronger brains are still powered by beef – or at least, by many of the nutrients commonly found in animal proteins.” Waldbieser sites several articles (few that are peer-reviewed) evaluating brain nutrient needs and anecdotal reports of mood and anxiety problems following the start of a meat free diet from a plethora of sources.  The information presented appears on the surface to be quite convincing.

Emily Deans, a practicing psychiatrist in Massachusetts, in her article, “Here We Go Again: Vegetarian Diets and Mental Health,” asserts that the research indeed tends to be scattered regarding mood disorder and the vegan diet, but that as a psychiatrist, she believes variety is the key.  She states that there is enough outcomes data pointing to a link between poor mood and veganism. She therefore goes on to support the Mediterranean diet plan.

A Vegan Diet Cures Mood and Anxiety Problems

Andrea Bertoli, in her article “Can a Vegan Diet Fight Depression?” reviews the case of Karl Hoppner from Forks Over Knives. He believes that a vegan diet cured his four-year battle with clinical depression.

Sara Hohn, in her article, “How I overcame Depression by Becoming A Mindful Vegan,” asserts that through embracing a compassionate way of living, and living mindfully through eliminating clutter, eating deliberately, and using deep listening, she was able to overcome clinical depression.

Tearing It All Apart

Let’s get down to the brass tacks of research. Not one of the four articles presented qualifies as empirical research. Moreover, and actually more importantly, the presented anecdotal accounts used in all four articles are total poppycock and are in no way shape or form empirically valid.  Only empirical research can show causality. Disappointed?  As you can see, regardless of your perspective on veganism, what at first appears to be sound research, turns out to be total crap!

To Be Specific

  • Doing a Google search is not conducting research.
  • Anecdotal evidence is not evidence at all, it is only reported experience.
  • One study means nothing without replication and meta-analytic review.  Replication requires years of empirically designed research on the same and similar research questions.
  • Results using correlation are only showing a relationship between variables. Correlation does not show cause and effect. 99% of “consumer research” you find on a google search results is corollary data.  Why?  Consumers love corollary data because results look definitive and authentic.  They in reality are not.
  • Standard research effect size and standard error are your strongest measures in analytic review.  Don’t know what these are?  Sign up for a Research methods course followed by Research Statistics.

My example is designed to prove the point that research is complicated.  We want to find support through research to validate the life choices we make, such as becoming vegan.  If that is your aim, you will fail miserably.

Stand By Your Choices

You don’t need evidence to make a lifestyle choice. You simply need to stand by your decision; sometimes the decision you make is simply the right thing to do for you.  Any amount of evidence you find is easily refuted, this being the ever evolving nature of empirical findings.  In fact, if you made decisions purely on the outcomes of research results, you would not make many decisions at all. Research outcomes are only dependable when trends are found through meta-analysis; this process takes years.  All results pro or con drive new research questions.  Singular research findings  are not designed to inform decision-making or behaviour.

Using Research to Validate Your Vegan Lifestyle? Stop it! was last modified: September 21st, 2017 by Jerod Killick
  • Hi Jerod, I appreciate your advice, it validates my vegan choices very accurately. I have found that most of the research studies on dietary choice is funded by organizations with a vested interest in the findings. You know from the beginning exactly what their conclusions will be. It’s exactly how I have proceeded: deliberately and independently, without allowing anyone to do my thinking for me.
    Very nice to make your acquaintance 🙂

  • Many thanks Bill! I really appreciate the thoughtful replay.

    When I wrote this, I was feeling particularly irritated about quick conclusions that people make, especially regarding health, in order to validate their vegan choice. I landed on, “sometimes it is just the correct thing to do.” People take one studies outcome and run with it, not understanding that without proper analysis of the measurements and replication, there is no way it can stand on its own.

    So again, many thanks! Have a good one and great to connect!