Adolescents' Diets Affect Their Mental Health

A study from Deakin University that looked at 3,000 Australian adolescents has revealed that mental health in adolescents over time could be predicted by diet quality. The research, published in the journal PloS One, suggests that improving diet quality could have a beneficial impact on adolescent mental health, perhaps even helping to prevent problems from developing in the first place.

Link Between Diet and Mental Health

According to lead author Dr. Felice Jacka, “We found that diet quality and mental health were linked, with healthier diets associated with better mental health." She added, "This relationship even persisted when mental health at the starting point was taken into account.”

She went on to point out that three-quarters of psychiatric illnesses begin before the age of 25, and that experiencing one episode of some mental illnesses, such as depression, makes it more likely that a person will have additional episodes in the future. The hope raised by this study is that a good diet can prevent some of these first episodes of mental illness.

Dr. Jacka explains the study results very clearly:
“On average, adolescents whose diets improved over the two year period also experienced an improvement in mental health over that time, while those adolescents whose dietary quality deteriorated over a two year period experienced an associated deterioration in mental health. This wasn’t explained by changes in physical activity levels or weight.”

“We also examined whether the relationships that we saw could be explained by ‘reverse causality’; that is, was diet quality in adolescents a response to mental health symptoms rather than the other way around? We tested this idea, but did not find any evidence that this was the case,” Dr Jacka said.

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