We know there are introverts and extroverts, but could it be that what you eat influences these personality traits? Scientists believe they have uncovered a connection between nutrition and personality—especially regarding meat intake.
In a study from the University Hospital Leipzig, body mass index (BMI) and scores of extroversion and depression were obtained from people who consumed meat and people who ate plant-based vegetarian diets. The participants in the study who ate a plant-based diet had lower BMI but did not have any correlation to depressive symptoms.
As the frequency of meat product consumption decreased, the individuals became less and less extroverted. The study suggested that it may be due to the isolation and separate eating habits that vegetarians face in a society where eating meat is still prevalent. Higher BMI was related to consuming meat products more frequently.
The effects of nutrition on personality have been studied in many different ways before. In an eye-opening study from 2013, the nutrition of adolescents and their personality traits were studied–but with the right education about healthier choices, personality traits could be altered. This suggests a malleability of personality and nutrition, instead of a concrete establishment of personality from childhood eating patterns.
In this previous study, after education about proper nutrition, the adolescents experienced an increase in stability, sociability, and responsibility while impulsive behaviors decreased. This was accomplished by reducing processed meat and meat products, breads, frozen foods, sugary drinks, and noodles.
Of the two groups of study participants identified with either high or low stability, the group labeled with lower stability consumed more meat and processed products, breads, frozen foods, noodles, and sugary drinks; and the group with the most stability consumed the most milk and dairy products. The group with the least amount of impulsiveness consumed the most canned foods (though it was not stated if it was meat or vegetables), and the adolescents with the most impulsive personality traits ate more meat and processed bread products.
After a proper nutritional education program, the adolescents learned healthier eating patterns and successfully reduced their blood level of sodium, while increasing their calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. The rapid changes in their nutrient profiles reflect how easily personality can be influenced not just by the consumption of meat alone, but the consumption of products which may leave us lacking in proper nutrients and overloaded in sodium.
Medawar, E.; Enzenbach, C.; Roehr, S., et al. Less Animal-Based Food, Better Weight Status: Associations of the Restriction of Animal-Based Product Intake with Body-Mass-Index, Depressive Symptoms and Personality in the General Population. Nutrients 2020, 12, 1492.
Lee, Kyung-Ock, and Eun Ju Cho. “Comparison of Consumption of Processed Food and Personality of Middle School Students on Nutrition Education.” Journal of the Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition, vol. 42, no. 10, 2013, pp. 1660–1607., doi:https://doi.org/10.3746/jkfn.2013.42.10.1600.