On average, Americans go to the doctor about four times a year (McCarthy, 2018). Depending on the circumstances, at least one annual check-up is performed where the physician asks the patient multiple questions about their medical history and then proceeds to question their mental health to confirm that all is well. Most Americans are familiar with the topic and discussion of the importance of diet and exercise.
What physicians often fail to mention are what affects the foods consumed have on the human body mentally, not just physically.
The nutritional values of food have a positive affect when consuming a fruit, vegetable, etc. but have a negative effect on mental health when the food is processed or high in carbohydrates for example. There have been recent studies and experiments that have discovered a relationship between the sustenance ingested and overall mental health. In the central nervous system of the body, which consists of the brain and the spinal cord, many vitamins and minerals are required for the brain to stay chemically balanced and functioning properly.
The brain contains neurons, which are specialized cells that transmit nerve impulses. In general, the nervous system uses neurons and neurotransmitters almost every second of the day. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are released from the nerve fiber ending after the arrival of a nerve impulse.
In a recent Norwegian study/experiment enough evidence has been accumulated to demonstrate the relationship between a habitual diet and prevalent mental health disorders (Jacka et al. 2011). This was a cross-sectional study preformed that included 5731 people, with men and women, from ages 46 to 49 and 70 to74 years to determine whether your diet influences the likelihood of someone having depression or anxiety with a healthier diet versus a non -healthy diet.
They assessed what the people ingested by a food frequency questionnaire and mental health was evaluated based on the hospital Anxiety and Depression scale. Adjustments were made as needed regarding the age of the subjects, educational background, financial stability, if they exercise or not and whether they consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes (Jacka et al., 2011).
The method these researchers used was the Hordaland Health study. This was a sub-example of the initial study that consisted of 9187 people from four communities between the ages of 86 to 88 and 54 to 55 were invited to engage in a “dietary sub study” (Jacka et al., 2011). Only 7074 subjects responded to this invitation and decided to participate. By doing so they agreed to a short health examination that questioned their mental state, diet, and any existing health complications. Out of the invitational group of subjects that participated in this study, only 87 percent of the subjects completed the examination/evaluation.
An overall diet quality score was given to the subjects and this showed the rankings of the six food groups leading to the conclusion that the higher the score received, the healthier the diet. These researchers also came to a consensus that there were three main dietary factors that explained why the dietary intakes varied. These factors tuned into variables of this sub study, and they consisted of: healthy, western, and traditional. According to the researchers in this study, a healthy Norwegian diet consists of vegetbales, salads, fruits, rice, pasta, cereals, fish, wine, and non-processed meats. “A western diet consists of meat and liver, some processed meats, pizza, salty snacks, chocolates, sugar and sweets, soft drinks, butter, mayonnaise and other dressings, French fries, beer, and coffee” (Jacka el at., 2011).
Finally, the traditional Norwegian diet is made up of fish (and shellfish), potatoes, fruits and vegetables, butter, milk and yogurt, bread, pasta, rice, meat legumes, and eggs (Jacka el at., 2011). When a subject showed symptoms of anxiety and depression they were to report them using the HADS. It is used to provide possible explanations for these common mental health disorders. When looking at the results for anxiety in men that consumed both a healthy and western diet, they typically had an increase in anxiety; therefore, concluding a positive correlation between a western diet and anxiety. Whereas there was no correlation between a traditional Norwegian diet and anxiety, and for women it was the inverse. Considering the population of this study and their diets, there is an association between diet a depression and anxiety. When ingesting a healthier diet, the likelihood of acquiring depression and anxiety is reduced in women. Unfortunately, in men there was no correlation between diet and depression in men, yet there is a positive correlation between a healthier diet and higher levels of anxiety (Jacka el at., 2011).
According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, people are not aware of the correlation between diet and depression. Nutrition can be a factor in determining the intensity and time-span of the depression. While analyzing the diets of depressed people, these researchers began to observe that their nutrition was not healthy. This provided evidence that there is a relationship between low levels of serotonin (the neurotransmitter associated with the regulation of mood, social behavior, appetite, memorization and sexual desires) and high rates of depression resulting in suicide (McIntosh, 2018). Americans are often lacking in their diets in regard to vitamins and nutrients.