If you’ve been watching TV lately, no doubt you’ve heard of Chad from The Bachelorette. He’s the villian from this season. In nearly every shot, he can be seen either eating a plate of meat, working out (by doing chin-ups with a suitcase chained around his waist), or getting into an altercation with one of the other men on the show. My husband and I love The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Chad’s behavior reminded me of a study linking the consumption of animal products with aggressive behavior.
Our endothelial cells are the cells that line our blood vessels. They are so important because they manufacture a gas called nitric oxide. This nitric oxide (NO) helps blood flow smoothly and when we eat foods that are high in fat, such as meat, dairy and oil, these cells are damaged and can no longer manufacture nitric oxide at 100% capacity.
Scientists have recently discovered that a decline in the manufacture of nitric oxide is also related to a decline in serotonin, the “feel good hormone”, and this depletion of essential serotonin may lead to aggressive behavior. It seems that when one is low in nitric oxide, serotonin levels also decrease and aggression tends to increase.
According to a study at Ohio State University in 2003, “Taken together, NO (nitric oxide) appears to play an important role in normal brain 5-HT function and may have signiﬁcant implications for the treatment of psychiatric disorders characterized by aggressive and impulsive behaviors. [i]
The most potent healers of the precious endothelial cells are dark leafy green vegetables and beans. Vegetables like kale, collard greens, arugula, bok choy and spinach and beans like black beans, lentils and garbanzos help these cells to produce nitric oxide. So, to reduce aggressive behavior, we need to eliminate meat and eat more salads. Coincidentally, cutting out animal products and adding in greens and beans is the same recipe to help heal our hearts, literally and figuratively, because these foods are effective at preventing and treating heart disease.
Mood, temperment and behavior are complex. There is no single cause of aggressive tendencies, but studies like the one at Ohio State, have shown a clear link between the consumption of animal products and aggression. If you or your loved ones are dealing with uncontrollable feelings of hostility or behavioral issues, please do talk to your doctor. But, it may also be worth reducing or eliminating animal products and focusing your diet on whole plant foods in order to help create more harmonious relationships.
By Emily Honeycutt, 2016. © All Rights Reserved. www.emilyhoneycutt.com
[i] Interaction of nitric oxide and serotonin in aggressive behavior, Silvana Chiavegatto and Randy J. Nelson, Science Direct, Hormones and Behavior 44 (2003) 233-241