While there is growing interest in the link between diet and psychological health, there is a surprising lack of studies investigating the precise associations between nutrient-rich foods (such as fruit and vegetables) versus nutrient-poor foods (such as energy-dense savoury and sweet snacks), and psychological health. Similarly, the psychological processes underpinning the relationship between dietary intake and psychological health remain unclear. Hence, the present study aimed to explore the relationship between dietary consumption and psychological health, with cognitive processes as a theoretical mediator. This cross-sectional online study included 428 healthy adults (53% female; mean age= 39.7, SD= 13.0), with participants completing a range of validated questionnaires measuring dietary habits and psychological health. Stepwise multiple regression revealed that more frequent consumption of fruit was associated with reduced symptoms of depression (β = -.109, p = 0.025) and greater positive psychological wellbeing (β = .187, p < 0.001). Conversely, more frequent savoury snacking was associated with increased anxiety (β = .127, p = 0.005). Further, mediation analyses revealed that more frequent consumption of savoury snacks was associated with increased symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, and reduced psychological wellbeing, via an increase in cognitive failures (ps < 0.001). These results provide new insights on the independent associations between certain types of food and psychological health, and the psychological mechanisms that may mediate these. Further work is now required to establish causality and determine whether these may represent modifiable dietary targets that can directly (and indirectly) influence our psychological health.
Bibliographical note© 2022 The Authors. CC BY 4.0
- mental health
- psychological health