There has been a lot of research that suggests there may be a solid link between what we eat and how we feel. It’s possible that the food we eat doesn’t just impact our physical health, but also plays in role in our mental health.
Poor nutrition can cause a range of physical health problems, including obesity, however, there is a range of demographic variables that may impact the strength and/or direction of the link with mental health, such as socioeconomic status, the severity of obesity, education level, age, ethnicity, and gender.
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet, rich in essential vitamins and minerals, may be linked to feelings of wellbeing. A study conducted in 2017 found that elevated feelings of wellbeing were more prevalent in people who consumed more fruits and vegetables.
Another somewhat recent study revealed that Mediterranean-syle diets (diets high in fruits, legumes, vegetables, beans, nuts, cereals, fish, unsaturated fats (eg olive oil) and grains) paired with fish oil supplements caused a decrease in depression symptoms of participants. The reduction of symptoms was sustained for six months following the start date of the study.
The importance of healthy nutritional intake from day one has been explored in many studies, including the 2014 systematic review, which showed that poor diets (diets high in refined carbohydrates, processed foods and saturated fats) were linked to worse mental health states in adolescents and children.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are lots of external factors that contribute to mental health problems, and figuring out how all those factors interact to impact mental health is extremely complex. External factors like childhood poverty, poor physical health, and living in deprived neighborhoods, are known to have a link to poorer feelings of wellbeing and mental health. All inequality factors have been shown to hold complex connections with poor nutrition.
Suffering from a mental health issue might also be connected with poorer diet and fitness levels. A lot of effort has been directed towards trying to narrow the ‘mortality gap’ for individuals with serious mental health conditions, who statistically die between 10 and 25 years, on average, sooner than the general public. A multitude of factors could, of course, contribute to those premature mortality rates, including nutritional factors, among various other things.