Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eating habits and psychological disorders

Mediterranean diet linked to lower depression and anxiety

Healthy diets are commonly linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Now research has linked dietary intake to psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety.

An Australian study of 1046 women, aged 20-93 years old, found that those who habitually eat vegetables, fruit, beef, lamb, fish and wholegrain foods (a traditional diet) are less likely to have depression and anxiety disorders compared to those who consume a western diet. A western diet consisted of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products and beer. Women who ate a traditional diet were 35% less likely to have major depression or dysthymia and 32% less likely to have anxiety disorders, whereas the western diet was linked to depressive disorders.

The ATTICA study of 853 men and women from Greece, found that more anxious men and women had different eating habits compared to those less anxious. Women who eat sweets as well as meat and meat products were more likely to be anxious while men who ate legumes and cereals were less likely to be anxious.

Depressive illness is influenced by genetic, hormonal, immunological, biochemical, and neurodegenerative factors. Diet affects each of these factors and possibly the development of depression. Inflammation is thought to play a role in the onset and maintenance of depressive disorders as well as chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Adhering to a Mediterranean diet, high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, wholegrains, fish, olive oil and low fat dairy products, ensures an adequate intake of folate, B vitamins, antioxidants and healthy fats. A Mediterranean diet is linked to less inflammation compared to a western diet and may therefore protect against depression and anxiety.


Jacka FN et al. 2010. Association of Western and Traditional Diets with Depression and Anxiety in Women. Am J Psychiatry; AiA:1-7.

Sanchez-Villegas A et al. 2009. Association of the Mediterranean Dietary Pattern with the Incidence of Depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry;66(10):1090-1098.

Yannakoulia M et al. 2008. Eating habits in relation to anxiety symptoms among apparently healthy adults. A pattern analysis from the ATTICA study. Appetite; 51:519-525.

Wholegrains and young healthy women

A new study shows wholegrains eaten daily can potentially lead to better health in women

The liver secretes C-reactive protein (CRP) which flags inflammation. Spikes in the level of CRP are also linked to chronic diseases in women such as diabetes, cancer and disorders of the heart and blood. Increased problems with fertility and general reproduction, hypertension and premature birthing can also occur when CRP levels are high. A new US study suggests eating wholegrains every day can lower CRP levels and potentially lead to better health in young women.

The study of 259 young healthy women aged between 18-44yrs, shows that eating wholegrains daily, significantly and inversely reduces levels of CRP. Women who ate half a serve of wholegrains daily, equal to 1 slice of wholegrain or wholemeal bread, had 11.5% significantly lower levels of inflammation, compared to those who did not. Those who ate more than half a serve of wholegrains per day had 12.3% significantly lower levels of inflammation, compared to those that did not eat any wholegrains. The study shows that eating more than half a serve of wholegrains daily, significantly lowers levels of CRP and the chance of moving to a more severe cardiovascular risk category , as classified by the American Heart Association, regardless of any dietary or metabolic factors.

The results of this study highlight the benefits of even a moderate intake of wholegrains per day as part of a healthy diet, with the potential to improve short and long term health outcomes in young healthy women. Scientific research shows that people who eat 48g of wholegrains a day, reduce the risk of developing chronic disease by 20-30%.


Gaskins AJ et al. Wholegrains are associated with serum concentrations of high sensitivity C-reactive protein among premenopausal women. J Nutr 140: 1669-1676, 2010.

Assoc Prof P. Williams & Go Grains Health and Nutrition Ltd. The Grains & Legumes Health Report. A Review of the Science. 2010.