Personalized diets can optimize mental health, claims study finds

A study by researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York, claimed that while a balanced diet is desirable to provide the body with all essential nutrients, personalized diets and fashion changes life could be essential for optimizing mental health.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that diet plays a major role in improving mental health, but everyone’s talking about healthy eating,” said Begdache, assistant professor of mental health studies. health and wellness at Binghamton University and co-author of a new article in Nutrients.

“We need to consider a range of diet and lifestyle changes based on different age groups and gender,” she said. “There isn’t one healthy diet that will be right for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

Begdache, who is also a registered dietitian, believes that mental health therapies must take into account the differences in the degree of brain maturity between young people (18-29 years old) and mature adults (30 years or older), as well as the morphology of the brain. . in both men and women.

She and her research team conducted an online survey to examine food intake, dietary practices, exercise, and other lifestyle factors in these four subpopulations. Over a five-year period (2014-19), more than 2,600 participants completed the questionnaire after responding to social media posts advertising the survey.

The team collected data at different times and seasons and found important diet and lifestyle factors contributing to mental distress – defined as anxiety and depression – in each of the groups.

Important dietary and lifestyle approaches for improving mental well-being in young women include daily consumption of breakfast, moderate to high exercise frequency, low caffeine intake, and abstinence from meals. fast.

The diet and lifestyle approach to improving mental well-being in mature women includes daily exercise and breakfast consumption, as well as high fruit consumption with limited caffeine intake.

To improve the mental well-being of young men, diet and lifestyle approaches include frequent exercise, moderate consumption of dairy products, high consumption of meat, as well as low consumption of caffeine and abstinence from fast food.

Diet approaches to improve mental well-being in mature men include moderate consumption of nuts.

Begdache and her team divided respondents into two age groups, as human brain development continued until the late 1920s. For young adults of both sexes, the quality of the diet appears to have an impact. on brain development.

“Young adults are still making new connections between brain cells as well as building structures; therefore, they need more energy and nutrients to do this, ”Begdache said.

As a result, young adults who consume poor quality food and suffer from nutritional deficiencies may suffer from a higher degree of mental distress.

Age is also the reason why high caffeine consumption was associated with mental distress in young men and women.

“Caffeine is metabolized by the same enzyme that metabolizes the sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen, and young adults have high levels of these hormones,” Begdache said. “When young men and women consume high levels of caffeine, it stays in their system for a long time and continues to stimulate the nervous system, which increases stress and ultimately leads to anxiety.”

The team also divided respondents based on biological sex, as brain morphology and connectivity differs between males and females. Simply put, the male brain is “hardwired” to enable perception and coordination, while the female brain is designed to support analysis and intuition. Begdache and his team believe that these differences may influence nutritional requirements.

“I’ve found it in my multiple studies so far that men are less likely to be affected by diet than women,” Begdache said. “As long as they eat a slightly healthy diet, they will have good mental well-being. It is only when they consume mainly fast food that we start to experience mental distress.

“Women, on the other hand, really need to eat a whole range of healthy foods and exercise to have positive mental well-being,” she added. “These two things are important for the mental well-being of women of all age groups.”

According to Begdache, current recommendations for food intake are all based on physical health; there are no recommendations for mental health. She hopes that will change – and that her work will play a role in making those changes happen.

“I hope to see more people researching this area and publishing on personalizing a diet for age and gender,” she said.

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