A team of researchers recently used survey data to investi gate the role that diet plays in mental health.
Key findings include the associations that mental distress has with caffeine and fast food and the increased mental well-being that comes with higher levels of exercise.
Seasonal factors and geographical location also affected mental health.
Research has shown that adhering to a healthy diet that is low in processed foods reduces the risk of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
However, there is growing scientific evidence that dietary factors may also affect mental health.
For instance, studies have found associations between the Mediterranean diet and a lower risk of depression.
In contrast, there is some evidence that lower quality diets are linked to increased risk of depression. However, this association is still up for debate.
To investigate the role of the diet in mental health, researchers from Binghamton University and Stony Brook University, both in New York, conducted an online survey of more than 2,600 participants from North America, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Asia.
The survey spanned 5 years and included 1,147 young women, 628 mature women, 641 young men, and 207 mature men.
For the purposes of the study, the researchers defined young as being between the ages of 18 and 29 years, while the mature participants were aged 30 years or over.
Involvement in the survey was voluntary. All of the participants filled out a questionnaire after responding to a social media post advertising the study.
The scientists’ goal was to determine what foods and other factors, including exercise, geographical location, and time of year, were positively or negatively associated with mental health.
Young and mature women had a higher risk of mental distress during the spring season.
The researchers also found negative mental health associations with high caffeine intake and moderate-to-high fast food consumption.
They also found that eating breakfast frequently and engaging in higher levels of exercise were linked to improved mental well-being among young women.