Diet Quality Affects Adolescent Mental Health - Food Product Design

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GEELONG VIC, Australia—The quality of adolescents' diets can influence their mental health over time, a new study shows.

In a study of data collected from 3,000 Australian adolescents in 2005 and again in 2007, researchers at Deakin University found that "diet quality and mental health were linked, with healthier diets associated with better mental health in 2005 and also predicting better mental health in 2007. This relationship even persisted when mental health at the starting point was taken into account," said Dr Felice Jacka from Deakin University's Barwon Psychiatric Research Unit, who led the study.

For the study, published in Plos One, participants completed questionnaires about their normal diets and their psychological symptoms. Other factors which may be associated with both diet quality and mental health, such as the socioeconomic status of the family, age, gender, physical activity levels, dieting behaviours and weight, were also taken into account.

"Importantly, we found that changes in diet quality over time were linked to changes in mental health," Jacka said. "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."

The researchers also noted that the relationship didn't seem to work the other way.

"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," Jacka said.

27 Sep, 2011

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