By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
With so much research available about poor diet and chronic disease no one can dispute that a diet lacking in fresh natural food significantly increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many other physical ailments. Now scientists have turned their attention to how diet effects our mental health and the proof is mounting: It does !
If you practise yoga, you'll understand the connection of the mind and body and won't be surprised to learn that researchers now believe that depression is a whole-body disorder caused by an imbalance of gut microbiota and systemic inflammation resulting from a variety of environmental factors including stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, overweight and obesity, lack of sleep etc
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a study from Leeds in England where researchers found that people who ate more fruit and vegetables were happier than those who didn't eat much fresh food.
Confirming that research here in Australia, researchers at Deacon University found that a good quality diet comprising of plenty of fresh fruit and veg helps to reduce the risk of depression while a poor diet full of processed food is considered to increase the risk of depression. The study called "Western diet is associated with a smaller hippocampus" studied effects of diet on the hippocampus, a brain structure associated with learning, memory, and mood regulation. A shrunken hippocampus is specifically implicated in depression, Alzheimer's and aging. The Deacon study found older adults, aged between 60- 64, with lower intakes of nutrient-dense foods and higher intakes of unhealthy foods were each independently associated with smaller left hippocampal volumes.
At Sydney University, researchers looked at food and stress and discovered that that adults over 45 years who ate five to seven daily serves of fruit and vegetables had a 14 per cent lower risk of stress than those who ate between zero and four serves daily.
Given the link between physical and mental health and the number of people suffering from chronic disease in the western world it comes as no surprise that the statistics mental disorders in Australia are also staggeringly high. Nearly three million Australians live with depression and/or anxiety, which effects their wellbeing, personal relationships, career and productivity. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia effecting 1 in 4 people. Most alarmingly Australian youth (18-24 years old) have the highest prevalence of mental illness than any other age group.
It should be simple: If we cut out the rubbish food in favour of a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, complex less processed carbohydrates and good fats from oily fish, nuts and seeds, we and the world would be a happier place.
So let's do it. Spread the world and make it a better place.
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