Your Mood Depends on the Food You Eat, and What You Should Eat Changes as You Age

Recently, a new research was published from Binghamton University in New York that proves how dietary practices can differentially affect the mental health of young adults in comparison with older adults.

The assistant professor of health and wellness studies – Lina Begdache and her team from the same university has recently conducted an internet survey that asked people from all over the globe to complete the so-called Food-Mood Questionnaire that has questions on specific food groups that are associated with neurobiology and neurochemistry.

Lina Begdache and the assistant professor of Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Nasim Sabounchi analyzed all the data together and they have found out that mood in young adults (meaning from 18 to 29 years old) appears to be dependent on food increases the availability of neurotransmitter precursors and concentrations in the brain – or in one word: meat.

But the case is different with the mature adults that are over 30 years old. It appears that they might be more reliant on food that is increasing the availability of antioxidants (which is mostly fruits) and abstinence of that kind of food that is activating the sympathetic nervous system (like coffee or skipping breakfast.)

“One of the major findings of this paper is that diet and dietary practices deferentially affect mental health in young adults versus mature adults,” said Begdache. “Another noteworthy finding is that young adult mood appears to be sensitive to build-up of brain chemicals. Regular consumption of meat leads to build-up of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood. Regular exercise leads to build-up of these and other neurotransmitters as well. In other words, young adults who ate meat (red or white) less than three times a week and exercised less than three times week showed a significant mental distress.”

“Conversely, mature adult mood seems to be more sensitive to regular consumption of sources of antioxidants and abstinence of food that inappropriately activates the innate fight-or-flight response (commonly known as the stress response),” added Begdache. “With aging, there is an increase in free radical formation (oxidants), so our need for antioxidants increases. Free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, which increases the risk for mental distress. Also, our ability to regulate stress decreases, so if we consume food that activates the stress response (such as coffee and too much carbohydrates), we are more likely to experience mental distress.”

Lina and her crew would like to compare dietary intake between women and man in relation to mental distress because they believe there is a gender difference in the brain morphology. This research can be really helpful in order to explain some already known gender-specific mental distress risk, she said.


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