Better diet quality is associated with lower prevalence of depressive and anxiety disorders among women in Australia, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
The researchers used dietary assessments (a food frequency questionnaire for diet quality and a factor analysis to identify dietary patterns) and psychiatric assessments (structural clinical interviews for mental disorders and screening questionnaires for psychological symptoms) for a cross-sectional analysis of a sample of 1,046 randomly selected Australian women aged 20 to 93.
A dietary pattern consisting of frequent consumption of vegetables, fruit, beef, lamb, fish and whole-grain foods was associated with a 35 percent reduced risk of having depressive disorders and a 32 percent reduced risk for anxiety disorders. Conversely, a dietary pattern characterized by processed foods such as hamburgers, white bread, sugar and beer was associated with a higher likelihood of depressive and anxiety disorders. The associations were consistent after adjusting for variables such as age, socio-economic status, education, physical activity and other lifestyle factors.
Limitations of the study design prevent any conclusions regarding how diet quality and mental health are associated, that is, whether diet quality is a result of mental health symptoms or vice versa. The researchers recommend further studies be done to understand if other factors may also influence the associations.
See “Association of Western and Traditional Diets with Depression and Anxiety in Women,” American Journal of Psychiatry (March 2010; 167: 305-311), available at ajp.psychiatryonline.org.