An Easy Diet Adjustment May Decrease Anxiety and Stress

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An Easy Diet Adjustment May Decrease Anxiety and Stress   

Jim Windell


            Around the world, anxiety is the most prevalent mental health concern affecting more than 300 million people. In the U.S., almost 40 million people, or about 19 % of the population, experience some kind of anxiety disorder.  

            According to the Mayo Clinic, coping with anxiety is a significant challenge which often requires making lifestyle changes. While there are no diet changes that have been shown to cure anxiety, it is suggested that watching what you eat may help.

            And that’s where a new study comes in.

            Researchers in Australia wondered if the Mediterranean diet (MD) could do more for people besides what is already known. Published studies and growing evidence shows the MD, which typically includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and seeds, nuts, legumes, and olive oil, with limited consumption of red meats and processed foods, can help prevent cardiovascular diseases and decreasing the risk of diabetes and metabolic-related conditions. In addition, the MD seems to stave off certain cancers. And, finally, a new field of research has shown that a higher adherence to the MD is associated with a lower risk of mental disorders, including cognitive decline and depression. But can it do anything to decrease stress and anxiety?

           Conducted in partnership with the University of the Sunshine Coast, researchers from the University of South Australia assessed the impact of a Mediterranean diet on mental health among 294 older Australians (people who were 60 and over). The principal finding was that the Mediterranean diet reduced the severity of anxiety and stress, independent of age, gender, sleep, and Body Mass Index.

           Furthermore, the researchers identified that specific elements of the diet – fruit, nuts, legumes, and a low consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks (less than 250mL per day) – reduced the severity of anxiety and stress.

           According to dietitian and University of South Australia researcher Dr. Evangeline Mantzioris, the Mediterranean diet can play a significant role in improving mental health and quality of life. “Globally, we’re facing an unprecedented ageing population, yet despite this longevity, many people continue to struggle with their health and wellbeing.

           “Lifestyle behaviors, including diet quality, are gaining more attention as modifiable risk factors for poor mental health, with the Mediterranean diet endorsed for reducing chronic disease risk and supporting healthy ageing. In this study we showed that when older people adhered to a Mediterranean diet, their symptoms of stress and anxiety declined – and that this occurred regardless of their age, gender, BMI or how much sleep and exercise they were getting.”

           Dr. Mantzioris concludes by saying that following the Mediterranean diet is a relatively easy lifestyle change which can help people make marked improve in their stress and anxiety levels and “Who wouldn’t want to give it a go.”

           To read the original study article, find it with this reference:

Allcock, L., Mantzioris, E. & Villani, A. (2024). Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet Is Inversely Associated with Anxiety and Stress but Not Depression: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Community-Dwelling Older Australians. Nutrients, 16(3):366.




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