Impact of Diet on Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Research Article

Austin J Psychiatry Behav Sci. 2016; 3(2): 1056.

Impact of Diet on Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Khan S¹ and Khan RA²*

¹Department of Psychology, University of Karachi, Pakistan

²Department of Pharmacology, University of Karachi, Pakistan

*Corresponding author: Khan RA, Department of Pharmacology, University of Karachi, Karachi-75270, Pakistan. Email: [email protected]

Received: September 21, 2016; Accepted: October 07, 2016; Published: October 13, 2016


The impact of healthy diet on symptoms of anxiety and depression has been explored before. The present longitudinal study sees through its implementation for the period of two months. The sample consisted of 31 undergraduates, aged 18-22. The results favored the benefits of healthy diet. Considerable decline in the scores of the participant is witnessed throughout the observation period. High dropout rate is the biggest limitation of the study. The reason may lie in it being based upon lifestyle modification treatment which is rather difficult to execute as compared to recommending medications.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Healthy diet; Lifestyle modification treatment


Depression is prevalent among masses influencing libido, appetite and sleep and causes lack of interest and motivation, low self-esteem, fatigue and decreased concentration [1]. Though depression influences individuals of all ages, its prevalence is twice among women as compared to men. Adolescence is thought to be the most likely stage of onset of depression as most cases of depression involve individuals under the age of 20 [2]. Anxiety is known as a state of excessive fear accompanied with motor tension, trepidation, risk avoidance and sympathetic hyperactivity [3], which may prevent proper functioning of memory, psychomotor activities and intelligence [4]. 1/8th of the world population suffers from anxiety disorders increasing enormous interest for research in the area of psychopharmacology [5-7]. Depression and anxiety are considered to be the product of the increasing complexity of routine life in modern culture. Chronic pain has been associated with the disorders influencing mood among patients in both developed and developing countries [8-12]. Depression and anxiety both are present among 15- 25% of adult population [13]. WHO estimates that depression will be the second leading cause of early death or disability by the year 2020 [14].

Currently, antidepressants are considered to be the number one choice to eradicate depression [15], with most prescription rate of SSRIs [16]. Similarly, chronic and acute anxiety is thought to be best treated with benzodiazepine having as much influence over depressive symptoms as well. But it failed in showing any response among 12-15% of the patients [17]. An analysis clearly presents that use of antidepressants has shot twice as much in the last 20 years in England and other Western countries with concrete evidence showing continuing increase in prescriptions since mid-1970s [18,19]. A research conducted in 2015 indicates overuse of antidepressants claiming that people prescribed or consumed antidepressants may not meet the criteria of mental disorders. Data analysis indicates 69% of the patients used antidepressants in the absence of symptoms of major depressive disorder [20]. Such findings call for an urgent need to develop alternatives, less hazardous and more beneficial in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Traditionally, depression is thought to be more of an emotionally rooted problem or rigorously biochemical disorder in nature where nutrition is found to be significant in commencement, duration and intensity of depression [21]. It was determined that depression and other mental disorder are closely linked with the deficiency of omega fatty acids, vitamins and mineral in the diet of the affected people [22]. B vitamins, mineral, amino acids and omega 3 fatty acids are the antecedents of the neurotransmitters responsible for the occurrence of depression [23- 29]. A closer look at the diet of the depressed people reveals that they are careless with their food choices making poor ones that actually add to their depression. A study showed that consumption of chips, biscuits, chocolate and other junk foods causes higher stress and lapses in cognitive functioning [30]. Other studies also linked eating chocolate with high rate of depressions. It was revealed that consuming fruits decreased levels of depression, anxiety and emotional distress as compared to the consumption of chocolates [31-33], whereas addition of fatty acids, vitamins and minerals in the diet can improve a person’s mood. Clinical studies and epidemiological data indicate that omega 3 fatty acid has the power to affectively cure depression of a person [34]. Regular intake of 1.5-2mg of Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) has been found to elevate mood [35], while consumption of 0.4mg of vitamin B12, coupled with folate showed remarkable decline in depression [36]. Moreover, provision of nine vitamins for a year greatly enhanced the mood in both men and women [37]. In addition, magnesium is also known to be helpful in decreasing symptoms of depression. In a study, patients given 125-300mg of magnesium (as gylcinate or taurinate) with each meal and before sleep showed huge improvement in major depression in a short period of time [38]. Another clinical study by Hanus et al. showed that magnesium intake significantly reduced anxiety in the patients [39]. Citrus fruits are also capable of elevating mood, this includes grapefruit (citrus paradisi), lime (citrus aurantifolia), orange (citrus aurantium), mandarin (citrus nobilis) and bergamot (citrus bergamia) [40,41]. Citrus paradisi and citrus lime have been found to have anxiolytic and antidepressant properties and boast memory as well [42-43]. A study held in 2009 established that whole food (rich in vegetables, fish and fruits) is linked with lower chances of contracting depression while processed food (fried food, refined cereals, chocolates, processed meat, desserts and high fat dairy products) contributes profoundly in developing depression [44].

Based on the previous epidemiological study, it was determined that a large number of student population seemed to be suffering from the symptoms of depression [45]. Hence this study is aimed at providing a thorough diet plan to the emerging adults prone to anxiety and depression in order to nip the disorders at the bud. The diet plan (Table 1) particularly focused on the timings of the meals, intake of specific food items with restriction on the use of some dietary elements, it was a longitudinal study stretched over the observation and monitoring period of two months.