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Food And Mood: The Role Of Nutrition In Mental Wellbeing

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Proper nutrition plays a significant role in our overall well-being, including our mood and mental health. Several studies have explored the link between nutrition and mood, and the following references highlight some of the key findings in this area.

  • Jacka, F. N., Pasco, J. A., Mykletun, A., Williams, L. J., Hodge, A. M., O’Reilly, S. L. & Berk, M. (2010). Association of Western and traditional diets with depression and anxiety in women. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167(3), 305-311. This study found that a “Western” dietary pattern (characterized by processed and fried foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer) was associated with a higher likelihood of depression and anxiety, while a “traditional” diet (consisting of vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, and whole grains) was associated with a lower risk.

  • Opie, R. S., O’Neil, A., Itsiopoulos, C., & Jacka, F. N. (2015). The impact of whole-of-diet interventions on depression and anxiety: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Public Health Nutrition, 18(11), 2074-2093. This systematic review examined randomized controlled trials that assessed the effects of dietary interventions on depression and anxiety. The authors found that interventions promoting healthier dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, were associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  • Sarris, J., Logan, A. C., Akbaraly, T. N., Amminger, G. P., Balanzá-Martínez, V., Freeman, M. P. & Maes, M. (2015). Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2(3), 271-274.
    This article discusses the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry and the potential for incorporating nutritional interventions into mainstream psychiatric practice. It highlights the importance of considering diet and nutrition as integral components of mental health care.

  • Parletta, N., Zarnowiecki, D., Cho, J., Wilson, A., Bogomolova, S., Villani, A. & Meyer, B. J. (2017). A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED). Nutritional Neuroscience, 20(6), 377-389. This randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet supplemented with fish oil on diet quality and mental health in individuals with depression. The study demonstrated improvements in both diet quality and depressive symptoms following the dietary intervention.
  • Grosso, G., Galvano, F., Marventano, S., Malaguarnera, M., Bucolo, C., Drago, F. & Caraci, F. (2014). Omega-3 fatty acids and depression: scientific evidence and biological mechanisms. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2014. This review article provides an overview of the scientific evidence and biological mechanisms linking omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish and certain plant sources, to depression. It discusses the potential antidepressant effects of omega-3 fatty acids and their role in modulating brain function

These references highlight the growing body of research supporting the connection between nutrition and mood. While further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying this relationship, adopting a healthy and balanced diet is generally recommended for promoting both physical and mental well-being.

How does this affect our children?

Proper nutrition is crucial for the healthy growth and development of children, including their cognitive function, emotional well-being, and overall mental health.

Here are some key effects that nutrition can have on children:

  • Cognitive development: Adequate nutrition, especially during early childhood, is essential for optimal brain development. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, B-vitamins, and choline play important roles in supporting cognitive functions such as memory, attention, learning, and problem-solving.
  • Mood and behaviour: Research suggests that poor nutrition in children may contribute to mood disturbances, behavioural problems, and an increased risk of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Nutrient deficiencies, particularly in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, have been associated with an increased likelihood of behavioural and emotional problems.
  • Academic performance: Proper nutrition is linked to improved academic performance in children. A balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides the necessary nutrients for optimal cognitive function, attention, concentration, and memory, all of which are crucial for academic success.
  • Physical health: Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining children’s physical health, and poor nutrition can lead to various health problems that may indirectly impact their mood and mental well-being. For example, deficiencies in certain nutrients, such as iron or B-vitamins, can cause fatigue, weakness, and decreased energy levels, which can negatively affect a child’s mood and overall functioning.
  • Establishing healthy habits: Childhood is a critical period for establishing lifelong healthy eating habits. Introducing children to a diverse range of nutrient-rich foods, teaching them about balanced nutrition, and promoting healthy eating behaviours can contribute to their overall well-being, including their mental health.

It’s important to note that each child is unique, and factors such as genetics, environment, and individual differences can also influence their development and mental health outcomes. However, providing children with a balanced and nutritious diet sets a solid foundation for their physical and mental well-being as they grow and develop.


  • Jacka, F. N., Kremer, P. J., Leslie, E. R., Berk, M., Patton, G. C., & Toumbourou, J. W. (2010). Associations between diet quality and depressed mood in adolescents: results from the Australian Healthy Neighbourhoods Study. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 44(5), 435-442.
  • Oddy, W. H., Robinson, M., Ambrosini, G. L., O’Sullivan, T. A., de Klerk, N. H., & Beilin, L. J. (2009). The association between dietary patterns and mental health in early adolescence. Preventive Medicine, 49(1), 39-44.
  • Sánchez-Villegas, A., Toledo, E., de Irala, J., Ruiz-Canela, M., Pla-Vidal, J., & Martínez-González, M. A. (2012). Fast-food and commercial baked goods consumption and the risk of depression. Public Health Nutrition, 15(03), 424-432.
  • Cooper, S. B., Bandelow, S., Nute, M. L., Morris, J. G., & Nevill, M. E. (2011). Breakfast glycaemic index and cognitive function in adolescent school children. British Journal of Nutrition, 106(10), 1552-1561.
  • Eilander, M. M., de Koning, F. J., Stokkom, V. L. E., Heineman, M. J., & Dijck-Brouwer, D. A. (2010). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in boys with behavior, learning, and health problems. Physiology & Behavior, 99(2), 154-161.
  • Kim, J. H., Li, Q., Park, D. W., & Yoon, S. J. (2018). Association between dietary pattern and depressive symptoms among Korean adolescents. Journal of Affective Disorders, 234, 169-176.
  • Liu, X., Yan, Y., Li, F., Zhang, D., & Fruitful Study Group. (2020). Dietary patterns and depression risk among Chinese adults: a propensity score matched case-control study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 272, 45-51.

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