Can good nutrition help prevent mental illness? – University

Throughout history, on the precipice of the human mind, we have come to consider the burden of existence, the meaning of life, our purpose and, recently, surviving a load. full course online. In addition to “How do I quit TikTok and finish this paper?” The ultimate and most instinctive question for humanity has always been what to eat next.

Some of us grew up with the idea that good nutrition and healthy foods directly benefit our physical well-being in many ways. When we think of this association, we generally consider weight gain or loss and its contribution or prevention of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. However, something that is not always a topic of discussion is the impact of diet on our mental health and how different foods affect who we are on a daily basis.

In addition to intervention strategies already in use, researchers looked for other ways to reduce the impact of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. According to World Health Organization (WHO), depression could be “the biggest contributor to the disease burden” within the next decade. In fact, the WHO reported depression as the leading cause of illness and disability worldwide in 2017.

Studying the impact of nutrition on mental health has led researchers to look specifically at the role of diet in the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

How Does Diet Affect Mental Illness?

In 2017, a research article a review of 21 studies from 10 countries assessed the link between different eating patterns and the risk of depression.

The review found that a diet characterized by “a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy products and antioxidants, and a low intake of ‘foods of animal origin’ is associated with a decreased risk of depression. On the other hand, a “Western-style diet” – characterized by “a high consumption of red and / or processed meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes and high-fat gravy, and a low intake of fruits and vegetables ”- has been found to be associated with an increased risk of depression.

In addition, a recent study in 2019 found that a diet of saturated fat and added sugars was associated with higher levels of anxiety in adults aged 50 and older. However, such findings regarding mental health are not exclusive to adults.

Another 2019 research article a review of 56 studies found a link between nutrition and depression in adolescents. The authors pointed out that foods such as olive oil, fish, nuts, legumes, dairy products, fruits and vegetables are “inversely associated with the risk of depression and may also improve symptoms.”

Can Healthy Eating Help Treat Mental Illness?

The SMILES trial, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) published in 2017, evaluated the role of diet in the treatment of major depression. The study lasted 12 weeks with 67 people with moderate or severe depression. The authors note that this is the first RCT “to explicitly seek to answer the question: if I improve my diet, will my mental health improve?” “

Individuals were placed either in the intervention group or in the control group. People in the intervention group received nutritional counseling from a clinical dietitian, while people in the control group received social support, in addition to any pre-existing treatment.

The intervention group’s dietary support focused on higher consumption of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, as well as other previously identified “healthy” foods such as fish and seafood. ‘olive, with moderate levels of meat and reduced consumption of processed foods, fast food, and sugary drinks.

At the end of the trial, the researchers found that those who received dietary support had “significantly greater improvements” in symptoms of depression. In fact, 32 percent of people in the intervention group saw their symptoms decrease, compared to eight percent in the control group.

The results of this study certainly offer a gateway to the implementation – or at least the consideration – of therapies involving diet. With this, however, there is still a lot of leeway to consolidate these results. As the researchers say, replication, as well as larger, long-term studies are needed in this new area of ​​“nutritional psychiatry research”.

A review item 16 RTC analysis found dietary interventions helpful in significantly reducing depressive symptoms, but no effects were seen for anxiety symptoms.


Overall, observational studies have identified a link between food intake and mental health. While there is no conclusive explanation for the exact role of nutrition, researchers have noted some possibilities. On the one hand, the role of inflammation in depression has been well established, and dietary strategies to reduce mental health symptoms include foods like fruits and vegetables, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Another explanation could be the link between gut health and brain health. Currently researching established a close relationship between a healthy gut and healthy brain function. In fact, a recent review item of 26 studies, published in 2020, highlight the potential association between maintaining a healthy and diverse microbiome through good nutrition – or supporting the good bacteria in our gut – and decreasing symptoms of depression and ‘anxiety.

Ultimately, an important aspect of tackling therapeutic and preventive strategies for mental health issues with diet is keeping in mind the many contributing factors at play, such as trauma, genetics, and even. socio-economic factors such as access to healthy food in the first place.

While there is much more research to be done, science currently gives us this food for thought: No matter how big the influence, our food choices matter. Food may be just one small piece of the complex puzzle of mental health, but its role always gives us something to chew on.

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