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The Surprising Link Between Diet, Diabetes, and Mental Health

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The Surprising Link Between Diet, Diabetes, and Mental Health

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New research reveals a significant link between nutrition, diabetes, and mental health. Poor dietary choices contribute to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Conversely, diets rich in essential nutrients and low in processed foods can reduce these risks. The findings highlight the importance of informed dietary choices in managing and preventing diabetes, anxiety, and depression, suggesting implications for public health policies and healthcare practices.

New literature reviews from College of Public Health researchers have provided new insights into the link between nutrition and mental health.

People with diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus) have a two to three times higher likelihood of experiencing depression compared to those without diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Current treatment includes therapy, medicine, or both.

However, the understanding of the multifaceted relationship between nutrition, mental health, and DM is relatively new in scientific discourse. Mason researchers sought to learn about the connection between nutrition, diabetes, and mental health. 

Nutritional Influences on Diabetes and Mental Health

Two literature reviews from assistant professor Raedeh Basiri show that poor nutrition plays a dual role, contributing to both the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and impacting mental health, including anxiety and depression. According to the findings, mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety, increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and diabetes is also linked with an increased risk of developing depression and anxiety. Nutrition interventions can aid in both of these health issues. 

“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 Basiri, the lead author of the papers.  

Empowering Dietary Choices for Health and Prevention

“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,” Basiri said. 

More specifically, the team’s findings provide a comprehensive view of the relationship between dietary patterns, health outcomes, and the critical role of eating behavior in the context of type 2 diabetes and mental health. 

The team found that eating foods rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Conversely, a diet with a large number of processed foods was found to have a negative effect, increasing the susceptibility to type 2 diabetes, depression, and anxiety.  

The Importance of Nutrient-Rich Diets

Additionally, the research team found that a diet with energy-dense foods but lacking in essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, selenium, chromium, and magnesium, is associated with the exacerbation of unfavorable symptoms in both mental health and the development of type 2 diabetes. This connection emphasizes 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. 

References: “Exploring the Interrelationships between Diabetes, Nutrition, Anxiety, and Depression: Implications for Treatment and Prevention Strategies” by Raedeh Basiri, Blessing Seidu and Mark Rudich, 29 September 2023, Nutrients.
DOI: 10.3390/nu15194226

“Key Nutrients for Optimal Blood Glucose Control and Mental Health in Individuals with Diabetes: A Review of the Evidence” by Raedeh Basiri, Blessing Seidu and Lawrence J. Cheskin, 9 September 2023, Nutrients.
DOI: 10.3390/nu15183929

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