Can mental health be influenced by diet?
Because they are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, fruits and vegetables are foods to consume every day, at a rate of five servings daily. They are especially essential for their protective role in the prevention of diseases appearing in adulthood, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity or diabetes.
But according to researchers at Binghamton University, they are also part of foods that have a real influence on morale and more specifically mental health. Their study even states that dietary practices affect the mood of young adults differently than older adults. Scientists conducted an internet survey, asking people to complete a questionnaire that includes questions about food groups associated with neurochemistry.
In analyzing the results, they found that mood in 18-29-year-olds is dependent on food, which increases the availability and concentration of two neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, known to promote “good mood“. And the most appropriate food seems to be red or white meat, three times a week. Young adults who do not follow this recommendation would be at greater risk of mental distress.
However, the good mood in the over 30 years depends more on foods rich in antioxidants: fruits and vegetables. But also to avoid certain foods or bad habits that inappropriately activate the sympathetic nervous system, linked to the innate reaction of fight or flight called stress response. In particular, foods with a high glycemic index (pastries) and skipping breakfast.
Fight against free radicals
“One of the key findings is that diet and dietary practices affect mental health differently for young adults than for mature adults,” said Begdache, lead author of this work. “Mature” adults are more sensitive to regular consumption of antioxidant sources (enzymes and vitamins) because aging causes an increase in the formation of free radicals (oxidants) in the body.
Antioxidant needs increase with age, because “free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, which increases the risk of mental distress.” says the researcher. “In addition, our ability to regulate stress decreases with age, so if we eat foods that activate the stress response, like too much carbohydrate, we are also more likely to suffer from mental distress.”
But for the mood to be “optimal“, these good eating habits must be accompanied by another indispensable measure: physical activity. At the rate of several sessions per week, sports can indeed increase the concentration of neurotransmitters that promote good mental health. Researchers now want to compare dietary intake between men and women and their moods.
“There is a difference between the sexes in the morphology of the brain,” they explain. In fact, their brain may not be sensitive to the same foods and the risk of psychological distress may not be the same depending on the gender.