Children and adolescents who eat foods high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and processed foods appear to experience more depression and low moods, according to a review of twelve epidemiological studies across different countries published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Led by Adrienne O’Neil of the School of Medicine at Deakin University in Australia, the study included data on nearly 83,000 children from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway. “We found evidence of a significant, cross-sectional relationship between unhealthy dietary patterns and poorer mental health in children and adolescents,” wrote the researchers. “We observed a consistent trend for the relationship between good-quality diet and better mental health and some evidence for the reverse.”
“The evidence that poor dietary intake could be a risk factor for mental health issues in both adults and children is only very new – much of the data has emerged over the past seven years – thus widespread recognition is lacking,” O’Neill told Medical Xpress.
“Given that the average age of onset for anxiety and mood disorders is six years and 13 years, respectively, the potential for early intervention using strategies targeted at improving dietary intake at a population level may be of substantial public health benefit,” the researchers wrote. “However, this would require policy action to improve the global food environment.”
Unhealthy diets linked with mental health of children (Medical XPress, November 7, 2014)
(Abstract) Relationship between diet and mental health in children and adolescents: a systematic review. O’Neil A et al. American Journal of Public Health. October 2014. Doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302110)