Iranian study links healthy eating to mental wellbeing

healthy foods

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition by researchers in Iran have found that adherence to healthy eating is inversely associated with a lower chance of anxiety and depression.

Although many studies have shown a protective association between healthy eating and mental health in Western countries, data from the Middle East has so far been limited.

The researchers examined the association between adherence to healthy eating guidelines, as measured by the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI)-2010, and the incidence of anxiety and depression. The Iranian validated version of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale was used to assess anxiety and depression in the subjects.

The cross-sectional study collected dietary intake data from 3,363 Iranian adults. Women in the top quartile of AHEI-2010 were found to have a 49% lower risk of anxiety and a 45% lower risk of depression compared to those in the bottom quartile. Those individuals aged 40 or younger who stuck to the healthy eating guidelines had a 58% lower risk of anxiety and a 51% lower risk of depression.

“We found evidence indicating that greater adherence to AHEI (Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010) was associated with lower odds of anxiety and depression. More adherence to AHEI-2010 was associated with a reduced risk of mental disorders in women, as well as in those who were 40 years or younger,” the researchers said.

“High content of folate, B vitamins and antioxidants in the healthy eating pattern might reduce neuronal damage of oxidative stress. Because of the high levels of inflammatory biomarkers and depressive symptoms, anti-inflammatory properties of foods included in AHEI have been shown to reduce concentrations of monoamines. Moreover, high levels of PUFA and n-3 fatty acids presented in oily fish and other components of AHEI are possible mechanisms.”