We research: Good nutrition and mental wellbeing

29.4.2024Susanna KunvikWe research

Nutrition plays a pivotal role in mental wellbeing. The mind and brain need high quality nutrients and regular refuelling. A diet that supports mental wellbeing is therefore regular, varied, and colourful. It is also important to recognise the emotions associated with food.

Illustrative image. Photo: Pexels.
Illustrative image. Photo: Pexels.

Research shows that eating a diet that meets nutritional recommendations is good for mood, mental health, and brain health. People who follow a health-promoting diet have a lower risk of developing depression, among other things. A diet in line with the nutrition recommendations includes a high diversity of vegetables, berries, and fruits, wholegrain cereals, legumes and nuts, oily fish, and unsaturated fats such as rapeseed oil.

Many of the effects of a health-promoting diet are mediated through the gut microbiota, as our diet influences which microbes thrive in our gut and what compounds they produce in our bodies. Some gut microbes produce neurotransmitters and connect to the brain through neural messages. A healthy diet can also reduce low-grade inflammation in the body, which is associated with mental disorders.

Which came first, poor diet or mental disorders?

Nutrition and mental health have complex, bidirectional links. Good nutrition can prevent mental disorders, while poor nutrition can increase the risk of mental disorders. On the other hand, mental disorders, such as depression, may contribute to unhealthy eating habits, such as high consumption of fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt. If the meal rhythm is irregular, it may lead to excessive portion sizes and binge eating. Depression has been associated with emotional eating and other unfavourable eating behaviour traits.

People with severe mental disorders are more likely to have a one-sided and irregular meal pattern and disrupted eating behaviour than the general population. Therefore, nutritional counselling should be considered as part of the treatment of mental disorders.

Mind Nutrition

A two-year Mind Nutrition study, starting in April, aims to investigate whether good nutrition can prevent depressive symptoms and depression-related sick leave and improve work capacity. performance. The second objective is to examine the links and interactions between diet, mental health, and work ability in the Finnish working-age population.

The combination of a population-based study and an RCT study will provide crucial evidence on the association and impact of diet on mental well-being and work capacity. Based on the evidence gained from the study, it will be possible to provide preventive recommendations and suggestions for health interventions for the working-age population.

Original graphic: Raija Törrönen in the article "Diet can support the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders" (uef.fi).
Original graphic: Raija Törrönen in the article "Diet can support the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders" (uef.fi).

Did you know?

  • The new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations, published in June of 2023, include for the first time scientific dietary recommendations that are both healthy and ecological.
  • Mind Nutrition is the second randomised controlled trial (RCT) conducted at the Research Center for Human Functioning. The RAVI study, which started in 2023, also follows the RCT study method.

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