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Poor nutrition linked to poor mental health and diabetes

New research from the College of Public Health has shed light on the critical link between nutrition, mental health, and diabetes

Two literature reviews led by Professor Raedeh Basiri reveal that poor nutrition not only increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes but also adversely impacts mental health, particularly anxiety and depression.

Mutually influential relationship 

“Across the world, diabetes, depression, and anxiety symptoms have gained widespread recognition as significant public health issues,” wrote the study authors. 

“Recent research has unveiled a mutually influential relationship between diabetes and these two mental health conditions, where each disorder impacts the course and outcomes of the others. The role of nutrition emerges as pivotal in preventing and treating depression, anxiety, and diabetes.”

Diabetes treatment 

The Centers for Disease Control has found that people with diabetes are two-to-three times more likely to experience depression compared to those without the condition. 

This correlation is the foundation of current treatments that often include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. However, the intricate relationship between diet, mental health, and diabetes is a relatively new area of study.

Dietary interventions 

Professor Basiri’s research indicates that mental disorders like depression and anxiety can heighten the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In turn, having diabetes also increases the likelihood of experiencing these mental health issues. 

What’s notable in these findings is the suggestion that dietary interventions can play a significant role in managing and mitigating these health concerns.

Empowering individuals 

“Our findings underscore the pivotal role of dietary choices in reducing the risks associated with both diabetes and mental health. The implications of these findings extend beyond the scientific community, as they hold promise for informing public health policies, health care practices, and dietary recommendations that can positively impact the general population,” said Professor Basiri.

“Ultimately, the research seeks to empower individuals to make informed and health-promoting dietary choices that can serve as a proactive strategy for the prevention and management of diabetes, as well as anxiety and depression.”

Critical insights

The team found that diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy are linked with a lowered risk of both type 2 diabetes and mental health disorders. Conversely, diets heavy in processed foods are associated with increased susceptibility to these conditions.

Furthermore, the team discovered that diets lacking in essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D, E, B6, B12, folate, selenium, chromium, and magnesium, tend to exacerbate symptoms related to both mental health and the development of type 2 diabetes. This connection underscores the importance of nutrient-rich dietary choices for overall health and well-being.

“Current scientific evidence underscores the potential benefits of adopting a well-balanced dietary regimen in decreasing anxiety and depression symptoms while enhancing glycemic control in individuals with diabetes,” said Basiri. 

The study is published in the journal Nutrients.

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