A recent study conducted by Dr Felice Jacka of Deaking University was published, revealing a link between diet quality and the presence of depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. Often treated with drugs and therapy, how will people take to learning that eating better has the potential to improve their mental health?

The Milk Moustache’s Katelin Meredith reports.

VO: A recent Australian study is the first in the world to show a link between diet quality, and the likelihood of poor mental health.

Conducted by Dr Felice Jacka of Deakin University, the study tested more than 1,000 women from a cross-section of Australian society.

Dr Felice Jacka: My study was published showing that diet quality was linked to the presence of clinically determined mood disorders. So that’s depression and bipolar disorder, and also anxiety disorders.

VO: Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study revealed that women who followed the National Dietary Guidelines were less likely to develop these illnesses.

Dr Felice Jacka: In that study, women who ate a diet that was what we called a traditional diet, simply because it was kind of a meat and three veg diet – so vegetables, fruit, lean red meat, fish, wholegrain, that sort of thing – what we know to be a pretty healthy diet, they were less likely to have depression and anxiety.

VO: With depression set to be the second most common cause of illness by 2020, according to the World Health Organisation, Dr Jacka believes while it’s not the answer to the problem, the study may have the potential to lessen these figures in the future.

Dr Felice Jacka: The hope is that we can use the information that we do have to try and prevent at least some cases of depression in the community. And in particular, we know that the average age of onset for depressive disorders is 13, and for an anxiety disorder it’s 6, so its very young people where you know these illnesses first manifest.

VO: Dr Jacka said when the science is relatively new, disciplines like psychiatry are often resistant to change. Often treated with drugs and therapy, how will people take learning that eating better has the potential to improve their mental health? As we don’t know a lot about these conditions, until more conclusive evidence exists, a healthy diet can only be a plus when acting alongside other forms of treatment.

Dr Felice Jacka: So the idea is from a public health perspective, if we could get children and adolescents diet improved, it may prevent some cases of depression and anxiety starting in the first place.

VO: As we come to better understand the role of genetics in depression, experts like Dr Jacka believe the influence of our environment will continue to become clear.

This is Katelin Meredith for the Milk Moustache.



  1. Julie November 16, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    We all have a lot to learn here.

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