Can food affect your mental health?

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

Mental illness, including schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy, dementia, and alcohol dependence, account for 13 % of the global burden of disease. These rates surpass both cancer and cardiovascular diseases. More than 300 million people are now living with depression and in 2020 was estimated that around 15 and 30 million people would attempt suicide. Although approximately 1.5 million per year would die by suicide, 3.3 million deaths every year result from harmful use of alcohol.

Nutritional psychology is an emerging field that aims to prevent mental illnesses. For example, the consumption of Western or highly-processed diet increases the risk of developing psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Whereas, a Mediterranean-style diet protects individuals from developing a mental disorder.


Moreover, poor diets can also cause obesity, with Alzheimer's disease, Dementia, and depression being comorbidities of that. Therefore, it is believed that there is a connection between diets and Alzheimer or depression, which consequently makes them potentially preventable diseases. Whereas, cognitive deficits exist in young healthy, normal-weight individuals with poor glucoregulation, which shows the need for early, rather than later life, preventative nutrition measures.

A recent finding in nutritional psychiatry has been the eruption of research targeting the modulation of the gut microbiota as a novel therapy for the treatment of various neuropsychiatric conditions. It has been shown to influence neurotransmission and the behaviour that is often associated with neuropsychiatric conditions which directly impacts systemic pathologies and obesity.

The hippocampus, one of the two structures in the adult brain where neurogenesis persists, is a brain region responsible for learning, memory, and mood. The modulation of hippocampal neurogenesis by diet has recently emerged as a mechanism by which nutrition may impact on brain plasticity, function and mental health.

However, these results are only indicative of future advancements and studies related to nutrition and psychology, in order to recognize the role of this integration in health and wellbeing.

Source: The role of diet and nutrition on mental health and wellbeing Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2017)
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