Category Archives: mental health

Your brain and a balanced diet

fruitsA healthy diet keeps your body healthy. Here at we’re always talking about how important it is to commit to a healthy diet. What we don’t talk about very much is that your healthy diet is especially important to the health of your brain.

Eating a Mediterranean diet or other healthy dietary pattern, comprising of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and low in processed meats, is associated with preventing the onset of depression, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Medicine. A large study of 15,093 people suggests depression could be linked with nutrient deficits.

Following extensive research into diet and its effect on our physical health, researchers are now exploring the link between nutrition and mental health. This is the first time that several healthy dietary patterns and their association with the risk of depression have been analyzed together.

The researchers compared three diets; the Mediterranean diet, the Pro-vegetarian Dietary Pattern and Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010. Participants used a scoring system to measure their adherence to the selected diet, i.e. the higher the dietary score indicated that the participant was eating a healthier diet.

Food items such as meat and sweets (sources of animal fats: saturated and trans fatty acids) were negatively scored, while nuts, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals respectively) were positively scored.

Lead researcher, Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, says “We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds. These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health.”

“The protective role is ascribed to their nutritional properties, where nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) could reduce the risk of depression.”
The study included 15,093 participants free of depression at the beginning of the study. They are former students of the University of Navarra, Spain, registered professionals from some Spanish provinces and other university graduates. All are part of the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) Project, a cohort study started on 21st December 1999. The cohort has been used to identify dietary and lifestyle determinants of various conditions, including diabetes, obesity and depression.

Questionnaires to assess dietary intake were completed at the start of the project and again after 10 years. A total of 1,550 participants reported a clinical diagnosis of depression or had used antidepressant drugs after a median follow-up of 8.5 years.

The Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 was associated with the greatest reduction of risk of depression but most of the effect could be explained by its similarity with the Mediterranean Diet. Thus, common nutrients and food items such as omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and moderate alcohol intake present in both patterns (Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 and Mediterranean diet) could be responsible for the observed reduced risk in depression associated with a good adherence to the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010.

Almudena Sanchez-Villegas says, “A threshold effect may exist. The noticeable difference occurs when participants start to follow a healthier diet. Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression. However, we saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets.

So, once the threshold is achieved, the reduced risk plateaus even if participants were stricter with their diets and eating more healthily. This dose-response pattern is compatible with the hypothesis that suboptimal intake of some nutrients (mainly located in low adherence levels) may represent a risk factor for future depression.”

A limitation of this study was that the results are based on self-reported dietary intake and a self-reported clinical diagnosis of depression. More research is needed to predict the role of nutrient intake for neurophysiological requirements and identify whether it is minerals and vitamins or proteins and carbohydrates that cause depression.

Fruits and vegetables are important for our bodies. Our brains are a significant part of those bodies. Let’s feed our brains as if our lives depended on it because, well, they do.

Eat well, be happy

Diet-and-Mental-Health-300x245We’re all aware that the stigma surrounding mental health issues is beginning to dissipate. As it becomes more common for those affected to seek help and experience varying levels of relief and the science surrounding those issues has become more solid, knows that we’re definitely in better condition than we were thirty years ago. But the reasons the issues exist and finding effective treatment can sometimes remain elusive. A new study is showing that some of those answers have always been as close as our kitchen tables.

Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, leading academics state that as with a range of medical conditions, psychiatry and public health should now recognise and embrace diet and nutrition as key determinants of mental health.

Lead author, Dr Jerome Sarris from the University of Melbourne and a member of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR), said psychiatry is at a critical stage, with the current medically-focused model having achieved only modest benefits in addressing the global burden of poor mental health.

“While the determinants of mental health are complex, the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a key factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that nutrition is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology,” Dr Sarris said.

“In the last few years, significant links have been established between nutritional quality and mental health. Scientifically rigorous studies have made important contributions to our understanding of the role of nutrition in mental health,” he said.

Findings of the review revealed that in addition to dietary improvement, evidence now supports the contention that nutrient-based prescription has the potential to assist in the management of mental disorders at the individual and population level.

Studies show that many of these nutrients have a clear link to brain health, including omega-3s, B vitamins (particularly folate and B12), choline, iron, zinc, magnesium, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), vitamin D, and amino acids.

“While we advocate for these to be consumed in the diet where possible, additional select prescription of these as nutraceuticals (nutrient supplements) may also be justified,” Dr Sarris said.

Associate Professor Felice Jacka, a Principal Research Fellow from Deakin University and president of the ISNPR noted that many studies have shown associations between healthy dietary patterns and a reduced prevalence of and risk for depression and suicide across cultures and age groups.

“Maternal and early-life nutrition is also emerging as a factor in mental health outcomes in children, while severe deficiencies in some essential nutrients during critical developmental periods have long been implicated in the development of both depressive and psychotic disorders,” she said.

A systematic review published in late 2014 has also confirmed a relationship between ‘unhealthy’ dietary patterns and poorer mental health in children and adolescents. Given the early age of onset for depression and anxiety, these data point to dietary improvement as a way of preventing the initial incidence of common mental disorders.

Dr Sarris, an executive member of the ISNPR, believes that it is time to advocate for a more integrative approach to psychiatry, with diet and nutrition as key elements.

“It is time for clinicians to consider diet and additional nutrients as part of the treating package to manage the enormous burden of mental ill health,” he said.

There have been studies conducted regarding the effect of junk food consumption on mental health. We know that eating well provides our bodies with the necessary fuel to function optimally. So we’re not surprised by these findings. We’d love to see this news on our televisions and on the web being broadcast loud and clear to the masses. Until then, let’s all share our knowledge and help people understand that healthy food is a necessary component to good mental health.

High-fructose diet in adolescence may be linked to depression later in life

urlDepression and anxiety have become common conditions these days. Millions of highly functional, accomplished people are taking antidepressants to combat the effects of these issues as they battle depressive behaviors every day. We do know that nutrition can play a role in depression. Studies have been conducted that have linked junk food consumption to behavioral health difficulties. New information, however, is pointing to a specific culprit consumed during a specific time period and showing a definite link to the development of depression.

The consumption of a diet high in fructose throughout adolescence can worsen depressive- and anxiety-like behavior and alter how the brain responds to stress, according to new animal research scheduled for presentation at Neuroscience 2014, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

“Our results offer new insights into the ways in which diet can alter brain health and may lead to important implications for adolescent nutrition and development,” said lead author Constance Harrell of Emory University in Atlanta.

Harrell is a graduate student working with Gretchen Neigh, PhD, assistant professor of physiology, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

Fructose, a sugar found naturally in fruits and vegetables but also added to many processed foods and beverages, can promote negative cardiovascular effects. It also stimulates neural pathways that affect how the brain responds to stress, which can have important behavioral effects, including the worsening of symptoms related to depression and anxiety. Such effects are of particular concern during the teen years, which is a critical time for the development of the brain’s stress response.

To determine whether fructose consumption has the potential to create long-term changes in metabolism and behavior during adolescence, Harrell and her colleagues gave both adolescent and adult rats either a standard or a high-fructose diet. After 10 weeks, the adolescent but not adult rats on the high-fructose diet had a different stress hormone response to an acute stressor, which was consistent with their depressed-like behavior. A genetic pathway in the brain that plays a key role in regulating the way the brain responds to stress was also altered.

These findings indicate that consuming a diet high in fructose throughout adolescence may exacerbate depressive behaviors and affect the way the body and the brain respond to stress. is always concerned about nutritional awareness in our teenagers. Unlike younger children, teens spend more time away from our homes and our kitchens. They are more likely to consume junk food containing high-fructose corn syrup on a regular basis. Healthy eating habits begin early. And while we’re not going to prevent teenagers from eating bad food when they’re away from us, the habits we instill early on will influence the choices they make as they get older. Depression is debilitating. We owe it to the coming generations to help them avoid behavioral conditions as much as we can. It’s important to remember that sugar-addicted children become sugar-addicted teens. We need to exercise control over our children’s dietary habits while we can. There’s no room for sugary beverages and processed foods in the diets of small children if we want them to grow into teens who make healthier food choices away from home.

Fruits and vegetables linked to better mental health

2012-10-10-FruitsVeggiesEating your five a day has been proven to do amazing things for health. But when we think of that, our thoughts generally turn to improved heart health, reduced risk of obesity, diabetes and even increased longevity. This new information, however, points to benefits that probably never crossed our minds.

A previous study suggested that consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is the optimum amount for lowering the risk of death from any cause, which contradicts another study that suggested we should be eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day.

The researchers from this latest study, led by Dr. Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK, used data from the Health Survey for England, which included nearly 14,000 adults over the age of 16.
This survey collected detailed information on the mental and physical health of the participants, as well as their health-related behaviors, demographics and socio-economic characteristics.

In addition, the team assessed the participants’ mental well-being using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, putting the top 15% of participants in the “high mental well-being” group, the bottom 15% in the low group, and those between 16-84% in the middle group.

‘The higher the veg and fruit intake, the lower the chance of low well-being’
Overall, the researchers found that high and low mental well-being were typically associated with the participants’ fruit and vegetable intake.
In detail, 35.5% of participants with high mental well-being ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who consumed less than one portion.

Additionally, 31.4% of the individuals from the high mental well-being group ate three to four fruit and veg portions per day, and 28.4% ate one to two.
“The data suggest that [the] higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being,” says Dr. Stranges.

The researchers also considered other health-related behaviors – such as smoking, alcohol intake and obesity – and found that only smoking and fruit and vegetable intake were consistently associated with mental well-being.

Dr. Stranges explains:
“Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental well-being. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental well-being in the general population.”

Alcohol intake and obesity were associated with low, but not high mental well-being, the researchers add.

According to the team, high mental well-being is more than simply the absence of symptoms or illness – it is the condition of feeling good and functioning well. They add that optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships are also part of this mode of being.

According to co-author Prof. Sarah Stewart-Brown, mental illness “is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental well-being underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.”

She says enabling people to maintain good well-being is important from a research perspective.

“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to enhance their mental well-being at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer,” she adds.

When asked about whether the study accounted for physical activity, Dr. Stranges told Medical News Today that one of the limitations of the study was that such data “was not available in the Health Survey for England,” leaving room for further study.

What a great reason to strive to eat your five a day! believes this information gives us all a new perspective on fruit and vegetable consumption — and more great reasons to tell ourselves and all our loved ones (not just our kids) “Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you!”

A glass of wine a day may help keep depression away has reported in the past on the links between moderate red wine consumption and a variety of health benefits. We’ve seen how red wine may help lower our risks for cardiovascular problems. In addition, moderate consumption may help lower cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar levels. But now, new research suggests that wine may also help reduce the risk for depression. This is according to a study published in the journal of BMC Medicine.

Researchers from Spain analyzed 2,683 men and 2,822 women over a 7-year period from the PREDIMED Trial – a study that conducts research around nutrition and cardiovascular risk.

All participants were between 55 and 80 years of age, with no history of depression or alcohol-related problems when the study began.

They were required to complete a validated 137-item food frequency questionnaire annually in order to assess their alcohol intake, and their mental health and lifestyle was analyzed throughout the study period.

The findings of the study revealed that those who drank moderate amounts of alcohol (5 to 15 g a day) were less likely to suffer from depression. Additionally, those who drank a moderate amount of wine on a weekly basis (two to seven small glasses a week), were found to have an even lower risk of depression. The researchers say these results remained the same even when accounting for lifestyle and social factors, such as marital status, smoking and diet.

However, further findings suggest that wine consumption exceeding seven glasses a week could increase the risk of depression. The study authors add that greater alcohol consumption was more frequently attributed to males, with 88% drinking more than 15 g of alcohol each day.

Previous research from the PREDIMED trial has suggested that low-moderate amounts of alcohol could protect against heart disease, and the study authors say the process may be linked: Unipolar depression and cardiovascular disease are likely to share some common pathophysiological mechanisms. Moderate alcohol intake, especially alcohol from wine, has been repeatedly reported to be inversely associated with the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Some of the responsible mechanisms for this inverse association are likely to be involved also in a reduced risk of depression.

Once again, is reminded that wine is an art, developed to be enjoyed in moderation – whose gift is a wide array of health benefits. While this new information certainly sets defined parameters for consumption, it also allows us to add another valuable item to the list of health benefits we can derive from the moderate and considered enjoyment of wine!

Mediterranean Diet linked to memory preservation and cognitive function’s main focus and mission has always been to educate consumers on the relationship between our diets and our health. With so many controversial ingredients present in our food supply, as well as unhealthy amounts of added sugar and sodium levels, consumers need straight answers and unbiased information on developing the dietary habits that will help them live longer, healthier lives.

So just how should we be eating? While there are a plethora of opinions on different dietary habits, the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits always seems to find its way into the news through continuing research. Today we found a study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Athens, Greece linking the Mediterranean diet to the preservation of memory and cognitive abilities.

The researchers collected data from the REGARDS study (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke). This study included data on over 30,000 people over 45 years of age between 2003 and 2007. Participants were followed up on regularly to record health changes. Among these participants, over 14,000 Caucasians and African-Americans who followed the Mediterranean diet were examined. The average age for this sub-group was 64. They were given tests to measure their memory and cognitive abilities over a period of four years. Seventeen percent of them had diabetes.

It was found that among those without diabetes who followed the Mediterranean diet most closely, the risk of memory problems and declining cognitive ability was lower by 19% in comparison to the rest of the population of the subgroup. In addition, the differences in declines among Caucasians and African-Americans was not statistically significant. The presence of diabetes seemed to hinder the effects of the Mediterranean diet as no benefit was realized amongst those participants who had the disease.

The researchers noted that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids are linked to better memory and cognitive functioning. The Mediterranean diet is rich in foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.

Prior studies have pointed out many other health benefits of the Mediterranean diet … some of which linked it to increased mental health, as well as brain health, as it appears to reduce damage to small blood vessels.

The Mediterranean diet incorporates the dietary patterns traditionally found in Southern Italy, Greece and Spain. It includes the consumption of olive oil, legumes, unrefined cereals, fruits, and vegetables, moderate to high consumption of fish, moderate consumption of dairy products, moderate wine consumption, and low consumption of meat and meat products. feels that the Mediterranean diet has shown so many potential benefits that it’s something to be seriously considered. This relatively simple style of eating is a fairly easy transition for most consumers who are already focused on the consumption of fresh, whole foods. Its benefits continue to unfold and we’re sure that this isn’t the last of the good news that we’ll hear regarding its advantages.

Possible relationship between diet and depression

Everyone in our community knows that is always on the lookout for information that suggests how our dietary habits can improve not only our general health, but diseases and chronic health problems as well. So we wanted to be sure to share this information with you.

Researchers published an opinion article in BioMedCentral’s journal BMC Medicine this week. The authors of the article have reviewed existing evidence for the links between diet and depression. They claim that depression is very similar to heart disease. Both conditions are associated with low levels of inflammation, endothelial dysfunction (the endothelium is the thin layer of cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels) and lipid profiles (tests that assess coronary risk factors). They believe that these specifics may suggest that the underlying causes for both conditions can, in fact, be the same. Food ingredients like partially hydrogenated oils which are trans fats are related to heart disease and may be related to depression as well.

In the past, has brought your attention to studies that link the consumption of fast food to the risk of depression. Most of these studies do not show a definitive cause and effect relationship. There’s always been a conundrum … is food choice the reason for depression, or do people suffering from depression make bad food choices, seeing unhealthy food items as a source of comfort? In the previous studies, other possible influences on depression are often taken into account as well, including things like existing medical conditions, alcohol usage, tobacco usage, exercise habits and heredity.

These researchers are addressing the need for longer-term studies that are conducted in the same manner as those that have been implemented for the effects of diet on the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies conducted in this manner will help the medical community ascertain the real connection between diet and depression. has always been a strong advocate of staying away from junk food altogether and purchasing any prepared food as carefully as possible by reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists. As we await further study into the correlation between diet and depression, we encourage our community to be as vigilant as ever about making the healthiest food choices for yourself and your family.

7 a day is better than 5 to keep you healthy AND happy! has reviewed research in the past that linked the consumption of junk food to a decline in the human ability to be optimistic and happy. It has been suggested that poor eating habits can actually add to depression and depressed moods. Today, however, we came across new research that links and increase in positive mental health and happiness to eating vegetables and fruits. We love the idea that our boosting our mental well being could be as simple as increasing our consumption of the foods that we already know are healthiest for our physical well being!

The University of Warwick in Great Britain conducted a study focusing on the diets of 80,000 people. They discovered that mental well being increased along with the number of servings of fruits and vegetables people consumed on a daily basis. Mental well being rose the most among those consuming seven servings each day.

While the current recommendations are to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables each day because we understand that this level of consumption protects our cardiovascular health and reduces our cancer risk, we’ve never looked at the effect of those servings – or an increase in those servings for our mental well-being.

The study focused on British citizens. It appears that currently 25% of the English population is eating one serving or no servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Only 10% are consuming seven or more. While the research doesn’t tell us that there are specific fruits and vegetables that are aiding in the mental health boost from those seven servings, they have, in fact, set a serving size that matters. One serving equals one cup. So, for instance one medium apple is one serving of fruit and two medium carrots will qualify as one serving of vegetables.

The authors of the study were somewhat surprised by their findings, mainly because mental health and well-being have not been related to diet in the past. For the most part treatment for mental health related difficulties has always been addressed medically, not nutritionally.

While we understand that nine servings per day can sound fairly daunting for many people, we know that there are some things you can do that can help increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Here are a few ideas from your friends at

Fruit Salad for Dessert
If your family only indulges in desserts on the weekends, you might want to reconsider that schedule. On weeknights, prepare a fresh fruit salad and not only will you be treating your family to dessert, you’ll also be getting an extra serving of fruit into their diets.

Especially with the colder weather coming, hot cereal brings the opportunity to get more fruit into your diet. We know that prepared flavored oatmeal isn’t always made with the best ingredients. But if you add apple slices and cinnamon to a bowl of homemade oatmeal, it will be tastier than the box products and provide extra fruit for the day.

Extra Dinner Veggies
We’ve always liked the idea of getting some vegetables into an entree that may or may not be noticeable. For instance, sliced zucchini works well in lasagna and chopped spinach can easily be mixed inside a burger. A few others might include broccoli in a side of macaroni and cheese, or cabbage in mashed potatoes. You would, of course, be serving a vegetable alongside that entree, effectively adding to vegetable consumption.

Side Salads
So you have your protein, your vegetable and (perhaps) your starch picked out for your evening meal. Serve a salad with it. Salads can be prepared in interesting manners with fruit and vegetable additions that are very appealing and add new textures and flavors AND extra fruits and vegetables to your dinner! encourages you to read more about this new research (and to try some of our ideas as well):