Can your diet shape your mental health?

Posted on May 28, 2015

Only recently have scientists begun to explore the relationship between nutrition and mental health. While the science is relatively new and much of it limited to observational studies that do not prove cause and effect, so far the findings are consistent and compelling: What you eat - and don't eat - can have a powerful impact on mental health.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians will experience a mental-health condition such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder in his or her lifetime. Among other factors that contribute to mental illness, our changing diet is thought to play a role. In a 2014 paper published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, Australian scientists said the transition away from the whole-foods diet our grandparents ate – one based on nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and whole grains – to a steady fare of nutrient-poor, high-calorie and highly processed foods has been associated with increases in depression and other mental disorders.

Recent studies have connected a "healthy" dietary pattern to a lower risk of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and suicide in adults. For example, a 2014 review of 21 studies from the University of Newcastle in Australia concluded that a high intake of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains protected against depression. A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that, among nearly 90,000 Japanese men and women, a diet characterized by more vegetables, fruit, potatoes, soy, seaweed and fish correlated with a lower risk of suicide.

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Source material from The Globe and Mail

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