Studies show a link between diet and mental health
Diet has a major impact on physical health and risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, but some research also indicates nutrition may affect mental health as well.
Since anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health conditions across the world, it is not surprising that researchers continue to search for new ways to reduce the impact of mental health conditions.
Depression could be one of the widespread health problems in the world by 2030, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nutritional psychiatry is an emerging area of research specifically looking at the role of nutrition in the development and treatment of mental health problems.
Several observational studies have shown a link between overall diet quality and the risk of depression. For example, one review of 21 studies from 10 countries found that a healthful dietary pattern was associated with a reduced risk of depression.
A healthful diet, for instance the Mediterranean diet, is characterized by high intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, fish, low fat dairy, and antioxidants, as well as low intakes of meat.
On the contrary, an unhealthy diet was linked with a significantly increased risk of depression. Unhealthy diets, including a Western-style diet, involve a high intake of red and processed meats, refined grains, sweets, high fat dairy products, butter, and potatoes, as well as a low intake of fruit and vegetables.
An older review found similar results, with high compliance with a Mediterranean diet being associated with a 32% reduced risk of depression. More recently, a study looking at adults over the age of 50 years found a link between higher levels of anxiety and diets high in saturated fat and added sugars.
A 2019 review of 56 studies found an association between a high intake of healthful foods, such as olive oil, fish, nuts, legumes, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, and a reduced risk of depression in kids and teenagers.
A team of Iranian researchers said in a report published in 2016 that people who adhered to healthy eating guidelines had a 49% lower risk of anxiety and a 45% lower risk of depression.