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Is Your Low-Fat Diet Making You Depressed & Anxious?

Fat makes me happy.

If you haven’t noticed, the low-fat era has not only coincided with a tremendous surge in obesity and diabetes, but also depression, anxiety, and addiction.

Seldom do we consider that the root cause of our mood issues is literally on our plates.

Or NOT on our plates.

On Monday, I blogged about the fact that 99.99% of our genes were formed before the Agricultural Revolution (just 10,000 years ago). Despite advancements in technology and our personal opinions regarding what we should be eating, we’re still genetically hardwired like hunter-gatherers.

We are hunter-gatherers.

Although we have no written or eyewitness accounts of the mental and emotional state of cavemen and women, we can look at the works of Weston A. Price and Vilhjalmur Stefansson, PhD to draw some conclusions as to the role of diet in mental health. In the case of Stefansson, a Canadian explorer and anthropologist, the Eskimos he studied and lived with were “the happiest people in the world”. Not only were they happy, but they were also extremely healthy, free of cancer, heart disease, and the diseases of civilization.

The Eskimo diet consisted of 80% animal fat. In fact, they warned Stefansson of the dangers of eating lean meat. They said it would make him sick, just as it making us sick.

I have long believed that in order to be healthy and happy, we must do as healthy and happy people do. Weston Price found that the native people he studied and lived with consumed ten times more fat-soluble vitamins and four times more minerals than we consume. These primitive people had no need for jails or mental institutions. Similar to Stefansson, Price consistently found that with adequate fats and nutrients came not only superior health, but also a pleasing, cheerful disposition.

We can learn a lot from “primitives”.

Regardless of how many self-help books we read, antidepressants we take, or talk therapy sessions we pay for, none will restore a nutritional deficiency.

According to last night’s UW Radio guest Pam Killeen, author of Addiction: The Hidden Epidemic,

“Approximately 60% of our brain is made up of fat. About 25% of the fat is the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, while 14% is the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA).”

CLICK HERE to listen to Pam Killeen on UW Radio!

The ideal food sources for these critical fats are wild fish, shellfish, grass-fed meat, lamb, goat, and pastured poultry and eggs. Yet, we prefer farmed fish, grain-fed cattle, the skin removed from our chicken, and the yolks out of our eggs. That is, if you eat animal foods at all.

We make grand attempts to keep our cholesterol levels down to save us from heart disease, yet we ignore the fact that “our brains make up 2% of our body’s weight and contains 25% of its cholesterol”. In fact, “myelin, which covers nerve axons to help conduct the electrical impulses that make movement, sensation, thinking, learning, and memory possible, is over 1/5 cholesterol by weight”. Cholesterol also increases neurotransmitter function five-fold and is needed for the proper functioning of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter) receptors in the brain. Low cholesterol will not save you from heart disease and it will certainly have a negative impact on your mood and brain function.

I can go on and on about mineral deficiencies, specifically zinc, which is very low in plant foods, causing an imbalance with copper. An imbalanced zinc-to-copper ratio can cause fatigue, anxiety, hyperactivity and more. The best sources of zinc are red meat, organ meats (yum!), seafood, and oysters (I’m eating some right now).

Vitamin D, which is ONLY present in animal foods, is necessary for the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, as well as the conversion of tyrosine into dopamine and norepinephrine. Yes, you can get Vitamin D from the sun. But how many minutes have you spent in the sun today?

These are but a few of the nutrients that were abundant in the primitive’s diet and which are certainly lacking in our low-fat, high-carb fare. We have never in the history of the world consumed a diet this low in saturated fats, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals. We’re paying the price for it, not only physically but mentally.

We do not have an antidepressant deficiency! Rather, many of us are deficient in the nutrients that build healthy brains and neurotransmitter function.

Like I always say, you can’t build a brick house out of wood.

Wood seems to be all we’re working with.

Depressing. Literally.

Host, The Thyroid Sessions
The Thyroid Sessions



23 thoughts on “Is Your Low-Fat Diet Making You Depressed & Anxious?

  1. Reid B

    Sean, you’re my freakin’ hero. Keep doing what you’re doing and keep being a role model for dudes like me!

  2. Lovelyn

    I just had a conversation about this the other day. I used to suffer from severe depression, but haven’t had a problem with it in years. When family members ask me how I’ve overcome it I always tell them my secret is butter. Butter makes everything better.

  3. Adam

    Interesting however the eskimo example imo is not a brilliant one to consider; baring in the mind the HUGE social differences between modern western civilisation and the eskimo way of life. I think if you plucked anyone out of the street in New York and placed them in an eskimos’ situation he would be calm and happy as well.

    I do agree that the modern “carb fare” we are having is not healthy now or for the future.

    It just seems like this article is trying to pin depression on a low-fat diet. It may well be a contributory factor but theres so many other variables to take into consideration.

    Also Sean i love the new idea of using the website for these articles and videos.

  4. Erin Chamerlik

    I don’t think this article is trying to “pin” depression on a low-fat diet as Adam says. I see that you are making a point that fat is essential for mental health and that is just one of the factors. You have spoken many times about other factors including amino acids. The body requires fat for many functions and you point out one here. The traditional Eskimo is studied because their diet in the winter is mostly animal meat and fat. I don’t think plucking the average New Yorker off the street and placing him (in the winter) with just some whale, seal and caribou to tide him over until summer while he fights nature for survival is going to bring that state of calm and happiness. It is not just fat and it is not just environment. I enjoy your show and learn from you and your guest speakers.
    I’m a fellow blogtalkradio host, blogger and holistic nutritionist and support your work fully!

  5. Razwell

    Absolutely fantastic video , Sean. 🙂

    I think we are about to see a shift soon in the dogma on saturated fat. We have been at this now for at least 4 years.

    Take care,


  6. Courtney


    I’m a big fan of your youtube channel. I was wondering where you get your grass fed meat from?

    I live in Canada and it’s been a tough ordeal trying to find it in the winter. Even in the summer at the stores that have a wider variety of organics tend to carry grain fed organic meat v. grass fed.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


  7. Honey

    I had the BEST oysters ever in Napa over the weekend! I’m still salivating. I agree with this reasoning, the problem I have as a low-meat eater is that I can’t stand the idea of supporting the horrible mainstream meat industry, yet it can be difficult (even in the SF bay area) and expensive to buy pastured meats and eggs. Eggs are around $6.50 a dozen, and I’ll pay that because they’re worth it, but I have to go out of my way to find them (not many farmer’s markets have them, I’ve checked.) Also, these days so much of our seafood is tainted by mercury and now, possibly radiation, that I worry about eating too much of it. Never mind the whole farm-raised/wild fish debate, and the fact that the fish industry is severely impacting the health of our oceans….it’s really hard to do the right thing both from a health perspective and morally. I know I don’t eat enough of these kinds of fats, but I have such an internal debate every time I go to buy fish of meat that it exhausts me and just end up buying more veggies. Any suggestions for how to eat meats in a way that’s both healthy for us and healthy for the planet?

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