A varied diet may improve mental health in youth

Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Alberta and Dalhousie University published an article in Public Health Nutrition exploring a connection between diet and mental health in youth.

Researchers received Food Frequency Questionnaires from over 3700 Nova Scotia youth between 10 and 11 years of age. They analyzed the FFQs for diet quality based on variety, adequacy, moderation, and balance. With parental permission, they used provincial health care numbers to get access to physician diagnoses on internalizing disorders (such as depression and anxiety).

What the researchers found was that while a statistically significant association didn’t seem to exist between diet quality and internalizing disorders, a significant association did seem to exist between diet variety and the disorders when comparing those with more varied diets and those with less varied diets.

Those who had greater variety in their diets seemed to have lower rates of internalizing disorders.

This is an important finding. In the past, research linking nutrition and mental health tended to focus on individual nutrients. Since people don’t eat nutrients by themselves, but as part of a varied diet, it’s important to investigate the effects of a spectrum of nutrients on mental health.

To quote the article:

“…individuals do not consume isolated nutrients. Research focusing on intakes of specific nutrients ignores the synergistic effects between nutrients.”

This is the impetus behind Truehope research: that broad-spectrum nutrients have a better effect on mental health than nutrients taken individually.