In January 2019, researchers in Iran published a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showing a connection between diet and mental health.
After recruiting nearly 3,400 adults between the ages of 20 and 55, the researchers assessed their dietary intake and examined their psychological health. They then identified dietary patterns and assessed the relationship between those dietary patterns and psychological disorders.
The researchers determined that 6 out of every 10 participants adhered to 1 of the following 3 dietary patterns:
Healthy dietary pattern
One first dietary pattern the researchers identified among the participants was one they labelled “health’. This dietary pattern was high in the following foods:
- Whole grains
- Low-fait dairy products
Fish & poultry dietary pattern
Another dietary pattern the researchers identified was one they labelled “fish and poultry’. It was, of course, high in fish and poultry, but it also had a significant proportion of refined grains.
Transitional dietary pattern
Finally, the other main dietary pattern they identified was one they labelled as “transitional”. It contained significant amounts of the following foods:
- Vegetable oils
- French fries
What the researchers found was that adherence to any of the three diets was connected to better mental health. For example, those who most closely followed the “healthy” dietary pattern were 65% less likely to be depressed than those who followed it the least.
While those who most closely followed the “fish and poultry” dietary pattern had lower odds of depression, the diet seemed to have no relationship to anxiety or psychological distress.
However, adherence both the “healthy” dietary pattern and the “transitional” dietary pattern was directly proportional to anxiety, depression, and psychological distress in participants. The better they followed those diets, the lower the odds of having those 3 mental health issues. The opposite was true for those who followed these two diets the least.
This is one more study in a growing body of research showing a connection between what we eat and our mental health. Here at Truehope, we’ve been promoting nutrition as mental health treatment for over 20 years.