Mental health linked to dietary habits

Sydney Morning Herald June 9, 2009

CHILDREN who have a poor diet are more likely to have a mental health problem as an adolescent, research has found. Wendy Oddy, of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Western Australia, found the typical Western dietary pattern increased a child’s chance of developing emotional and behavioural problems. Dr Oddy studied 1600 14-year-olds and identified two distinct dietary patterns that influenced the wellbeing of an individual.

She associated a Western dietary pattern with burgers, pies, sausage rolls, confectionary, red meat, refined grains, full-fat dairy food, dressings and sauces. A healthy dietary pattern was linked with red, yellow and leafy-green vegetables, fresh fruit and legumes, wholegrains and fish. “We then adjusted the analysis to take into account things you would expect to be associated with mental health, like family functioning, family income, single mothers, biological fathers not living at home, parents who smoke and parents’ education,” Dr Oddy said. The Western dietary pattern was found to increase the likelihood of an individual being withdrawn, depressed, anxious, aggressive and delinquent. It also contributed to the “obesity explosion”.