14 January 2010

Healthy diet = healthy mind

Women who suffer from depression and anxiety may want to take a look at their diet as possible contributors to these conditions, study findings hint.


Women who suffer from depression and anxiety may want to take a look at their diet as possible contributors to these conditions, study findings hint.

Dr Felice N. Jacka, at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues report mood disorders were more common among women 20 to 93 years old who, over 10 years, ate primarily processed, refined, high-fat foods.

"There's no magic diet," Jacka said. But eating a diet mainly of vegetables, fruit, whole grain foods, low fat dairy products, and lean meat, and reserving processed and sweet treats to "sometimes foods," will aid physical health and may also support mental well-being, she added. 

How the study was done

Jacka's team assessed diet and psychiatric evaluations gathered over 10 years from 1 046 women representative of the general Australian population.

A total of 925 women were free of mood disorders, whereas 121 had depressive and/or anxiety disorders, the researchers report in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

When they assessed how diet might relate to mood disorders, they found that a "Western" diet -- eating primarily hamburgers, white bread, pizza, chips, flavoured milk drinks, beer, and sugar-laden foods -- was associated with more than a 50 % greater likelihood for depressive disorders.

By contrast, both depression and anxiety disorders appeared about 30% less likely among women eating a diet of mostly of vegetables, fruit, beef, lamb, fish, and whole-grain foods.

More investigation needed into diet, mental health

These associations remained when the research team allowed for a variety of factors including age, body weight, social and economic status, education, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol drinking habits.

But similar "adjusted" analyses in women mainly consuming fruits, salads, fish, tofu, beans, nuts, yogurt, and red wine showed no similar associations.

Taken together, the findings highlight the need for additional investigations to determine whether unhealthy eating leads to declining mental health or vice versa, the researchers say.

Given that diet is modifiable, finding evidence of a causal tie between diet and mental health seems worthy of pursuit, the researchers conclude. - (Reuters Health, January 2010)


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Mental health & your work »

How open are you about mental illness in the workplace?

Mental health in the workplace – what you can do to help

If you know that one of your colleagues suffers from a mental illness, would you be able to help them at work? Maligay Govender offers some helpful mental health "first aid" tips.

Sleep & You »

Sleep vs. no sleep Diagnosis of insomnia

6 things that are sabotaging your sleep

Kick these shut-eye killers to the kerb and make your whole life better – overnight.