Iranian Researchers Find Diet & Stable Mental Health Linked

Iranian Researchers Find Diet & Stable Mental Health Linked
Iranian Researchers Find Diet & Stable Mental Health Linked

A team of Iranian researchers have found that women who adhered to healthy eating guidelines had a 49% lower risk of anxiety and a 45% lower risk of depression, and healthy eaters aged 40 or younger were 58% less likely to suffer from anxiety and 51% less likely to suffer from depression.

It is the first major Middle Eastern study investigating the link between diet and mental health and finds that healthy eating is associated with a lower risk of anxiety and depression.

“We found evidence indicating that greater adherence to AHEI (Alternative Healthy Eating Index2010) was associated with lower odds of anxiety and depression. More adherence to AHEI2010 was associated with a reduced risk of mental disorders in women, as well as in those who were 40 years or younger,” wrote the researchers in the British Journal of Nutrition.

B vitamins, antioxidants and omega3s were singled out as potentially important nutrients for cognitive health by the study authors Parvane Saneei, Maryam Hajishafiee, Ammar Hassanzadeh Keshteli, Hamid Afshar, Ahmad Esmaillzadeh and Peyman Adibi.

Researchers examined the association between adherence to healthy eating guidelines, as measured by AHEI2010, in a sample of 3,663 adults, the website reported.

The two-phase, cross-sectional study was carried out within the framework of the ‘Study on the Epidemiology of Psychological Alimentary Health and Nutrition’, a project that involved Iranian adults working in 50 healthcare centers affiliated to Isfahan University of Medical Sciences.

Participants completed two questionnaires, one on dietary behaviors, such as the frequency of consumption of foods and portion sizes, and the other on psychological distress and mental disorders.

  Alternative Healthy Eating Index

AHEI2010 evaluates the ‘healthiness’ of a diet by measuring intakes of 11 food groups: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, omega3s (docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)), polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), alcohol, sugar sweetened drinks and fruit juice, red and processed meat, transfat and sodium.

Those who ranked highest on this scale were more likely to be women, older and more educated, compared with those at the bottom of the scale.

In the second phase, the Iranian version of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) was used to screen participants for anxiety and depression. The data from both phases was merged. The prevalence of anxiety was 15.2% (10.8% men and 18.3% women), while depression was recorded in 30% of participants (22.9% men and 35.1% women).

Researchers offered several explanations for the link between healthy eating and better mental health: “High content of folate, B vitamins and antioxidants in the healthy eating pattern might reduce neuronal damage of oxidative stress. Because of the high levels of inflammatory biomarkers and depressive symptoms, anti-inflammatory properties of foods included in AHEI have been shown to reduce concentrations of monoamines. Moreover, high levels of PUFA and n3 fatty acids presented in oily fish and other components of AHEI are possible mechanisms.”