Australian researchers have shown that a nutritious diet has a significant, positive effect on mental health and can even aid in the prevention and treatment of depression and anxiety.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne have been studying the impact of teenage diets on depressive symptoms since 2005. Over 2000 study participants, age 11 to 18 years, were sampled from 2005 to 2006, and again in 2007 to 2008. Diet quality and mental health baselines were established at the beginning of the study and followed up throughout the project.
After adjustments for sociodemographic variables and exercise, it was found that a good quality diet predicted better mental health than any other factor. Furthermore, dietary changes matched mental health states during the investigation. In other words, improved diet was reflected in improved mental health and a poor quality diet filled with snacks and highly processed foods was associated with a deterioration in mental health.
These results corroborate the 2010 findings of the same research team wherein diet and mental health outcomes of Australian women across a wide range of ages were studied. In that investigation, researchers found that women who ate a diet of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, high quality meat and fish reduced their risk of depression, dysthymia and anxiety by more than 30 per cent. On the other hand, women eating a diet with high quantities of refined and processed foods as well as saturated fats, had a 50 per cent increased likelihood of developing depression.
To read the online study, “A Prospective Study of Diet Quality and Mental Health in Adolescents”, go to www.plosone.org.