How can Nutrition affect our Mental Health?[:]

Food insecurity (FI) affects almost 795 million people worldwide. Although a complex phenomenon involving factors such as food availability, affordability, utilization, and even social norms that determine acceptable ways of obtaining food, FI can affect human health beyond its effects on diet. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that FI was associated with poorer mental health and specific psychosocial stressors in areas of the World Wide Web (149 countries), regardless of individuals’ socioeconomic status.

 

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Nearly one in three people (29.2%) worldwide certainly experience a common mental disorder during their lifetime, such as depression, anxiety and physical symptom disorders.

FI can contribute significantly to common mental disorders, through many different mechanisms, first creating uncertainty about the ability to maintain a healthy diet, or to obtain adequate nutrition in the future. In addition, it can cause a stress response that can contribute to stress, but also depression, while finally obtaining healthy foods in socially unacceptable ways (eating junk) can cause feelings of alienation, weakness, shame and guilt associated with depression. FI can also widen socio-economic disparities between households and communities that could increase cultural sensitivities and affect overall mental well-being.

Professor Andrew D. Jones, of the Department of Nutrition Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, conducted this research using data from the Gallup World Poll 2014 (GWP). The GWP is a series of national representative surveys for people aged 15 and over that use probabilistic sampling to cover both urban and rural areas. FI data was available for 147,826 people in 11 regions of the world that included 149 countries. The extent of FI ranged from 18.3% in East Asia to 76.1% in sub-Saharan Africa.

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The mental health status was then determined based on the Negative Experience Index (NEI) and the Positive Experience Index (PEI) with two five-question surveys addressing issues such as pain, sadness, pleasure, feelings of respect, and other factors. Data on mental health indicators were available for 152,696 people. The PEI was higher in Latin America and the Caribbean (79.4) and lower in Russia and the Caucasus (59.2), while the NEI was lower in Central Asia (17.4) and higher in the Middle East and of North Africa (34.9).

Dr. Jones found that FI was associated with poorer mental health by comparing NEI with FI for multiple age groups. A reverse result was found for PEI versus FI data. It also recognizes the possibility that the direction of the correlation between FI and mental health is the opposite, that poor mental health could lead to FI. However, this is the first study to conduct a global analysis of this connection and it has come to raise awareness and concern. Mr. Jones explained that the development of robust monitoring systems and the enhancement of both FI and mental health measurements are important in order to better understand their relationship in different environments that can help inform interventions and of course have the ability to deal effectively with the effects of FI on mental health.

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