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

Overview of the biological mechanisms linking diet and mental and cognitive health

The link between diet and mental health disorders could be explained by the impact of diet on many pathophysiological pathways.

The link between diet and mental health disorders could be explained by the impact of diet on many pathophysiological pathways.

There are a number of closely linked physiological pathways potentially explaining why and how diet can affect mental and cognitive health.

Although most of the clinical studies that have been done to date on biological dysregulations underpinning mental disorders have focused on depression, other conditions, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia share these pathophysiologic characteristics and regulatory pathways.

Watch the video in which Professor Michael Berk gives us a broad overview of plausible biological pathways that might be modified by diet.

The following diagram illustrates the role of diet in implicated mechanisms. The green arrows represent how a healthier diet might provide beneficial modifications, whilst the red arrows show the potentially detrimental impact of the Western diet (characterised by a high consumption of ultra-processed foods), impacting both symptomology and metabolic outcomes.

"Depression and other MD - Diagram 2.2"
Overview of the interlinked physiological pathways that impact mental health symptomology and might be modulated via diet. Based on concepts from Marx et al. 2021 (see References).

In the next few steps, we will have a closer look at inflammation, gut microbiota, and neurogenesis as key mechanisms where evidence is available and growing.

Discussion point

Reflecting on the video with Prof Berk and the Role of Diet in Implicated Mechanisms diagram, share your thoughts on how this knowledge might be applicable to your clinical practice.


Marx, W., Lane, M., Hockey, M., Aslam, H., Berk, M., Walder, K., … & Jacka, F. N. (2021). Diet and depression: exploring the biological mechanisms of action. Molecular psychiatry, 26(1), 134-150.

Wollenhaupt-Aguiar, B., Kapczinski, F., & Pfaffenseller, B. (2021). Biological pathways associated with neuroprogression in bipolar disorder. Brain Sciences, 11(2), 228.

This article is from the free online

Introduction to Nutritional Psychiatry: Nutri-Psyche

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