What has diet got to do with emotional health?

During National Nutrition Week (15 – 21 Oct), we’re talking about how the food/drink we eat affects how we feel.

by Dr Elizabeth Holmes-Truscott


Each year during National Nutrition Week (15-21 Oct), Nutrition Australia raises awareness of the role of food in our health, and supports the community to enjoy healthy eating. The importance of a ‘healthy diet’ for our physical health is well established and widely known. But did you know that diet is also linked to our mental health?

Recent research has established that an unhealthy diet (i.e. excess junk food/drink or too little ‘nutrient-dense’ foods) is a risk factor for depression and anxiety. Some evidence suggests that this link may be stronger among people with type 2 diabetes (T2D).

In a large observational study, a healthier dietary pattern was associated with a reduced likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms, and this association was stronger among those with T2D. The PREDIMED study first examined the impact of healthy diet adoption on the development of depression. A strong but non-significant trend was observed for the preventative effect of diet overall, while among people with T2D adoption of the Mediterranean-style diet was significantly associated with a reduced incidence of depression.

The body of evidence linking diet and mental health is growing at a rapid pace. Leading the way are our friends at Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre, the first research centre globally to be dedicated to the study of nutritional psychiatry.  Prof Felice Jacka (Director) and colleagues are currently conducting world-first research into the role of diet in treating mental health conditions. Their recent SMILES trial preliminary evidence showing that improving diet is an effective treatment strategy for major depression.

At the ACBRD, we are closely following the important new field of nutritional psychiatry research and how nutrition education might be used to support people with diabetes to manage not only their glucose levels and physical health but also their emotional health.