Most of us know that a healthy diet is good for us and yet the majority of us don’t eat as healthily as we would like. When I ask my clients what do they think a healthy diet looks like, most would say “lots of fruit and vegetables”, “high fibre stuff”, “less junk food”. Well, they definitely have the right idea there!
My next question is, how are those foods good or not good for you? Why is eating 5 serves of vegetables so important? Aren’t 3 serves of vegetables that you have with your meat at dinner enough? That’s when most of us are stumped… it’s good for you because it just is!
This blog, explores how our diet relates to our mental health and reveals just what diet has to do with it!
Like diabetes or cardiovascular disease, mental health disorders are very common, can also become chronic and may be difficult to reverse. It makes more sense to prevent than to treat.
Almost half of the adult population [45.5%]
will experience a mental illness in their life time
1 in 5 experienced a mental illness in a 12-month period.1
Commonly, psychological intervention and medications are standard treatments for mental health disorders, however, there is increasing evidence our diet plays a major role in the prevention and management of depressive symptoms.
A recent randomised and controlled trial [RCT] conducted in Melbourne by Professor Felice Jacka from Deakin University provides important evidence of the effectiveness of dietary therapy in the treatment of major depressive episodes.2 The study recruited 67 adults who had major depression and poor eating habits [lots of processed foods and low intake of fresh foods]. Half of them attended a social support group. The other half attended a 12 week dietary intervention group. In the dietary intervention group, a dietitian provided personalised dietary advice and counselling to help participants improve their diet quality.
The study found that participants in the dietary intervention group had greater improvement in their depressive symptoms at the end of 12 weeks compared to the participants in the social support group.2
The improvement observed was not due to other factors such as medications, physical activity and body weight. It is thought that diet quality may improve depressive symptoms through reduced inflammation in the body and assisting with developing a healthy gut microbiome.
Certainly, the study results need to be replicated and other studies are needed to further understand the links between diet and mental health. However, this study along with observational studies suggest that healthy lifestyle choices [diet, exercise, sleep and not smoking] are important factors to address in the management of mental health disorders. In fact, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry Clinical Practice Guidelines for Mood Disorders recommends that lifestyle behaviours should be the first step in the treatment of patients.3
If you suffer from depression and struggle to adopt a healthy diet, you could benefit from seeing an Accredited Dietitian how is skilled in assessing your individual needs and making personalised dietary recommendations to your unique situation. While everybody has some idea of what they should be eating,
a dietitian is trained to go beyond simply prescribing you a diet; they are able to make it relevant to your needs and can help you to make a change for good.
GLOW Dietitian Konsita Kuswara is a Melbourne trained Accredited Practicing Dietitian with particular skills and expertise in pregnancy and postpartum nutrition as well as toddler and child nutrition. Konsita is also trained in The Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) feeding approach effective in children with feeding difficulties such extremely fussy, has autism or other developmental delays.
To make a booking with Konsita contact GLOW or call 9769 5606
1. 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing
2.The 'SMILES' Trial Jacka FN, O’Neil A, Opie R, Itsiopoulos C, Cotton S, Mohebbi M, Castle D, Dash S, Mihalopoulos C, Chatterton ML, Brazionis L, Dean OM, Hodge AM, Berk M. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Medicine 2017 15:23.
3. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Clinical Practice Guidelines for Mood Disorders Gin S Malhi, Darryl Bassett, Philip Boyce, Richard Bryant, Paul B Fitzgerald, Kristina Fritz, Malcolm Hopwood, Bill Lyndon, Roger Mulder, Greg Murray, Richard Porter and Ajeet B Singh Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists clinical practice guidelines for mood disorders Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2015, Vol. 49(12) 1-185