Foods And Mood -How what we eat affects how we feel.
A recent ‘gold standard’ of clinical trials investigated the impacts of a 12 week dietary modification for major depression. This was known as the “SMILES” trial and ran through the Food & Mood Centre via Deakin University. The results concluded a statistically significant decrease in depressive symptoms in participants in the intervention group.
When nutrition and mood disorders are compared globally, poor nutrition is seen to be a risk factor for the development or worsening of mood disorders and with individualised nutrition protective effects and even therapeutic effects can be seen.
Let’s have a look at how this can be.
If we think of the ‘typical’ standard Australian diet (or SAD for short) it is usually low fibre, high in refined/processed foods, sugars, trans-fats, and low in vital nutrients such as B vitamins, Omega-3, Magnesium and Zinc. We then have the complicating factors such as caffeine or alcohol that block nutrient absorption from the foods we are consuming. This way of eating contributes to inflammation, leaky gut/poor gut health, decreased liver/pancreatic function, oxidative stress and overall poor health.
If we move our focus to high fibre, wholegrains, clean sources of protein and an abundance of vegetables we can start to make changes that not only affect our physical health but our mental and emotional health too.
How Can Food Impact Mood?
Nutrients through food provide the building blocks to neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in the body. Neurotransmitters include GABA, serotonin, dopamine (among others). Nutrients through food also help with mitochondrial function (which assists with energy of the cells), neuron function and adaption to change, as well as decreasing inflammation and balancing blood sugar. Although there are countless nutrients for wellbeing, we will focus on a main few that are shown to be effective with mental health and mood disorders such as depression. Nutrients shown by research to have the greatest impact on mental health include;
The data for the antidepressant foods incorporated food sources that had a high content of at least 1 antidepressant nutrient listed above.
The Foods are:
Mustard, turnip, beet greens
Lettuces (red, green ,romaine)
Fresh Herbs (basil, coriander, parsley)
Tuna CAUTION: High heavy metals
Peppers (bell, serrano, jalapeno)
Extracted from: LaChance, L.R., Ramsey, D. Antidepressant foods: An evidenced-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World J Psychiatry. 2018;8(30):97. http://dx.doi.org/105498%2Fwjp.v8.i3.97
Neurotransmitters & Mood
As mentioned above, neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers for how we are feeling. They regulate mood and many physiological functions. Here are some of the most common ones:
Seretonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT): a neurotransmitter that can be low in depression. It also regulates body functions such as the bowels, cardiovascular function, sleep and bladder control.
All of the precursors to neurotransmitters have one thing in common; they are amino acids derived from protein.
For more information on dietary neurotransmitter foods refer to journal article Dietary Neurotransmitters: A Narrative Review on Current Knowledge by Briguglio, M., Dell’Osso, B., Panzica, G., Malgaroli, A., Banfi, G., Dina, C.Z., Galentino, R., & Porta, M. 2018.
Genetic changes (or SNPs- single neucleotide polymorphisms) can influence how well we do or don’t metabolise (or break down) certain foods. This can make us more vulnerable to mood changes via impacting not only our neurotransmitter status but also influencing inflammatory response, gut health, liver, pancreatic function and many other bodily processes that can drive mood changes.
Example MTHFR gene: dairy, wheat, sugar and toxins may decrease mood and energy via decreased breakdown, absorption, utilization and the potential to lead to inflammation
Through proper nutrition and education we can pave the way to a healthier, happy society.
Please note each individual will have a different requirement for nutrients and foods. Please seek professional advice from one of our naturopaths if looking to make significant dietary changes.
LaChance, L.R., Ramsey, D. Antidepressant foods: An evidenced-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World J Psychiatry. 2018;8(30):97. http://dx.doi.org/105498%2Fwjp.v8.i3.97
Lai, J.S., Hiles, S., Bisquera, A. et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;99(1):181-97. http://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.113.069880
Jacka, F.N., Mykletun, A., Berk, M. Moving towards a population health approach to the primary prevention of common mental disorders. BMC Med. 2012;10:149. http://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-10-149
Mischoulon, D., Freeman, M.P.: Omega-3 fatty acids in psychiatry. Psychiatr Clin 2013; 36: 15-23.doi: 10/1016/j.psc.2012.12.002
Lai, J., Moxey, A., Nowak, G., et al. The efficacy of zinc supplementation in depression: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Affect Disord 2012; 136(1-2):e31-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2011.06.022
Richard, D.M., Dawes, M.A., Mathias, C.W., Acheson, A., Hill-Kapturczak, N., & Dougherty, D.M. 2009.L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioural Research and Therapeutic Indications. Int J Tryptophan Res. 2:45-60. Doi: 10.4137/ijtr.s2129
Lenders, C.M., Liu, S., Wilmore, D.W., Sampson, L., Dougherty, L.W., Spiegelman, D., & willett, W.C. 2012. Evaluation of a novel food composition database that includes glutamine and other amino acids derived from gene sequencing. Eur J Clin Nutr, 63(12): 1433-1439. Doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.11
Briguglio, M., Dell’Osso, B., Panzica, G., Malgaroli, A., Banfi, G., Dina, C.Z., Galentino, R., & Porta, M. 2018. Dietary Neurotransmitters: A Narrative Review on Current Knowledge. Nutrients, 10(5), 591. Doi: 10.3390/nu10050591
Comerford, K.B., & Pasin, G. 2017. Gene-Dairy Food Interactions and Health Outcomes: A Review of Nutrigenetic Studies. Nutrients, 9(7), 710. Doi: 10.3390/nu9070710