New York, March 3 (IANS) Lifestyle changes and customized diets could be key to optimizing mental health, a new study suggests.
The study indicates that significant dietary and lifestyle approaches to improve mental well-being among young women include daily breakfast consumption, moderate-to-high exercise frequency, low caffeine intake and abstinence from fast food.
"There is increasing evidence that diet plays a major role in improving mental health, but everyone is talking about a healthy diet," said researcher Lina Begdache from Binghamton University in the US.
"We need to consider a spectrum of dietary and lifestyle changes based on different age groups and gender. There is not one healthy diet that will work for everyone," Begdache added.
The researcher believes that mental health therapies need to consider the differences in degree of brain maturity between young (18-29 years old) and mature (30 years or older) adults, as well as the brain morphology among men and women.
For the study, published in the journal Nutrients, the team conducted an online survey to examine food intake, dietary practices, exercise and other lifestyle factors in these four subpopulations.
More than 2,600 participants completed the questionnaire after responding to social media posts advertising the survey.
The team collected data at different timepoints and seasons and found important dietary and lifestyle contributors to mental distress -- defined as anxiety and depression -- in each of the groups.
The team found that to improve mental well-being of young men, dietary and lifestyle approaches include frequent exercise, moderate dairy consumption, high meat intake, as well as low consumption of caffeine and abstinence from fast food.
Dietary approaches to improve mental well-being among mature men include moderate intake of nuts, the researchers said.
The team split the respondents into two age groups because human brain development continues into the late 20s. For young adults of both genders, quality of diet appears to have an impact on the developing brain.
As a result, young adults who consume a poor-quality diet and experience nutritional deficiencies may suffer from a higher degree of mental distress, the team said.