Current research on diet and anxiety

FourthEstate
February 8, 2021
November 1, 2021

Read a transcript of this video:

Healthy food is just as important for brains and cognition as for physical health and it can be useful to understand the impact of diet on behaviour.

For example, food can affect anxiety. When sugar levels dip or rise quickly after eating starchy or sweet food, adrenalin can be released, causing stress.

Similarly, different foods have a big impact on energy – some, like yoghurt, eggs, oily fish and wholegrains, release energy slowly and can sustain energy throughout the day. On the other hand, processed carbohydrates do not support this slow release, which can create problems. 

There is ongoing research into specific links between diet and dementia, such as whether certain foods can reduce the risk of developing dementia, and whether supplements can boost the abilities of people with dementia or slow the progression of the disease down.

We know that there is a strong link between a healthy heart and a healthy brain, so things like reducing salt intake, cutting out saturated fats and increasing essential fatty acids can make a big difference.

We also know that eating a nutrient-rich diet helps maintain the health of both the heart and the brain. This means you should encourage the person you care for to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, oily fish containing omega 3 oils and low amounts of salt and saturated fats.

Research is now looking more specifically into how dietary patterns, nutrients and supplements can combine to support the brain health of someone with dementia and reduce the risks of developing a dementia.

The British Dietetic Association identifies that while there have been studies to show associations between thinking skills and diet, it is very difficult to show definite links when there are so many other factors to consider, such as the medical condition, the influence of medications, exercise, and the genetics of the people in any study conducted. While much of the research so far has not been conclusive, research does continue.

There is currently a study, funded by the European Commission, into the impact of omega 3 and other key nutrients on dementia. For more information on this study go to: www.lipididiet.eu

We know it can sometimes be tricky to encourage a person with dementia to eat well. The important thing to remember is that meals should be enjoyable, sociable occasions – and becoming overly anxious about nutritional intake can create extra tension at mealtimes.

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Current research on diet
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Ongoing research is investigating the links between diet and aspects of mental health such as anxiety and stress
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Health promotion
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