Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Are diet and mental and brain health linked?

Discover how diet and mental and brain health linked. Decrease the risk of common mental disorders through a whole diet approach.

A growing pool of evidence directly links diet quality with mental and brain health.

Previously, diet and nutrition have been mostly linked to physical health. But rapidly growing evidence associates dietary patterns and overall diet quality to mental and cognitive outcomes across different life stages.

Notably, these associations are often independent of common confounding factors such as socio-economic status, education, social support or body weight.

The whole diet approach

The ‘whole diet’ approach is relatively new. Previously, research mostly focused on single nutrients, for example, omega-3 fatty acid or folate, and the impact these have on mood. Yet, the human diet is much more than a combination of nutrients and we usually don’t consume these in isolation. So, the whole diet approach to researching food and eating is essential.

According to the whole diet approach, despite variations in eating dictated by cultural or personal preferences and styles, a quality diet can be defined by the following aspects:

  • High intake and high variety of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
  • Moderate intake of a quality proteins such as seafood, lean meats and dairy.
  • Low intake of highly processed foods.

Critically, evidence drawn from multiple studies shows a direct dose-response relationship between high quality diet and decreased risk of developing common mental disorders, such as depression.

Your task

Watch the video of Professor Felice Jacka, Director of the Food & Mood Centre, discussing current research in Nutritional Psychiatry and the associations between diet quality and mental and brain health outcomes.

Reflect on the discussion in the video and what diet and mental health mean to you. Choose two or three key terms that come to mind and add it to the AnswerGarden WordCloud. We will revisit the WordCloud later in this course.

This article is from the free online

Food and Mood: Improving Mental Health Through Diet and Nutrition

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now