Is your diet helping or harming your mood?
Researchers have been studying the impact of diet on physical ailments for decades and have been prescribing healthy nutritional diets for patients with heart disease, obesity, type II diabetes and cancer.
Just recently, researchers have become aware of the connection between the gut and the brain. I’m sure you have heard people talk about the ‘second’ brain, in reference to the gut. There is evidence to show that certain foods impact our gut bacteria, which influence our mental health.
The way the gut influences the brain is via brain chemicals called SEROTONIN and DOPAMINE. The gut bacteria help make the building blocks of these important brain chemicals. Approximately 95% of serotonin is made in the gut. SEROTONIN and DOPAMINE are mood-regulating brain chemicals that are also involved in learning. So, what we eat influences how with think and feel.
There was a study published in January 2017, and it wanted to answer the question:
“If I improve my diet, will my mental health improve?”
This study was aptly called the ‘SMILES’ study, and it was conducted in Australia. The researchers wanted to investigate whether the addition of dietary interventions would impact moderate to severe depression.
The study ran for 12 weeks and the dietary group was given advice, counselling and motivation. The dietary group was then placed on what was called the ‘ModiMedDiet’.
The ‘ModiMedDiet’ was based on the Australian Dietary guidelines and the Dietary Guidelines for Adults in Greece.
The following recommendations were made to the participants of the study…
whole grains (5–8 servings per day),
vegetables (6 per day),
fruit (3 per day),
legumes (3–4 per week),
low-fat and unsweetened dairy foods (2–3 per day),
raw and unsalted nuts (1 per day),
fish (at least 2 per week),
lean red meats (3–4 per week),
chicken (2–3 per week),
eggs (up to 6 per week),
and olive oil (3 tablespoons per day),
whilst reducing intake of ‘extras’, food such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks (no more than 3 per week).
Red or white wine consumption beyond 2 standard drinks per day and all other alcohol (e.g. spirits, beer) were included within the ‘extras’ food group.
The results revealed that the dietary group had greater improvements in their Depression Scores and Anxiety Scores.
The researchers have concluded that although this is only the first study, and more studies need to be conducted in order to replicate these results…
the dietary advice guided by professionals may provide a good treatment strategy for those suffering from depression.