3 ways diet impacts on mood & brain health

Food for the brain. How diet impacts on depression, stress & food addiction

"The link between emotions and eating is no myth,” says Sherry L. Pagoto, PhD, Associate Professor of Preventive and Behavioral medicine at University of Massachusetts

1. The link between Diet and Depression 

Long-term exposure to an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression¹ according to a 2014 study into 3,663 people who consumed a diet that was high in sugar and processed foods. The EU has recently launched a 9m euro MoodFood project with the expressed interest in exploring the link between nutrition and psychological health. 5-htp is a natural extract from Griffonia Simplicifolia seeds and the pre-cursor to serotonin

2. Sugar and Food Addiction

A 2013 study published in the Clinical Nutrition & metabolic Care² found evidence in humans shows that sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs like cocaine. This reward function can lead to many of us overeating & gaining weight.

3. Stress

In the short term, stress can shut down appetite. A structure in the brain called the hypothalamus produces corticotropin-releasing hormone, which suppresses appetite. The brain also sends messages to the adrenal glands atop the kidneys to pump out the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). Epinephrine helps trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response, a revved-up physiological state that temporarily puts eating on hold.

But if stress persists, it’s a different story. The adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall, but if the stress doesn’t go away — or if a person’s stress response gets stuck in the “on” position — cortisol may stay elevated.

Deborah Colson, a nutritional therapist for Food For The Brain 'Poor blood sugar balance is often the single biggest factor in people suffering mood swings, depression, anxiety, and 'emotionality' - where someone appears to be fine one minute then in floods of tears the next. Having big blood sugar swings lessens people’s ability to cope with stress.'

Stress causes us to eat more sugar. Sugar leads in increased stress. It's vicious circle.


¹Felice N. Jacka, Nicolas Cherbuin, Kaarin J. Anstey, Peter Butterworth - Dietary Patterns and Depressive Symptoms over Time DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087657 Published: January 29, 2014

²Ahmed, Serge H. a,b; Guillem, Karine a,b; Vandaele, Youna a,b - Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. 16(4):434-439, July 2013.

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