Mood Series: DIET

Tue Aug 28 2018 17:14:43 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

In the first two posts of this series we talked about how environment, lifestyle and associated pathways can contribute to your mood.

Today we take a deeper look into the research supporting the link between diet and the pathways involved.


The absolute beauty of this research is the fact that we can use it to create targeted and personalised dietary changes based on scientific literature.

A little ‘taster’ of the research…

- A Mediterranean diet consisting of high intake of fish, seeds, nuts, cereal, fruit and vegetables, moderate intake of alcohol, and low intake of meat and whole-fat dairy, is shown through a prospective study to be protective against the development of depression.

- Consumption of ‘sweets’ is positively linked to depressive symptoms, as well as consumption of pastries and ‘fast food’ such as hamburgers and pizza which have been linked to depressive symptoms for up to six years (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.4).

- EPA supplementation (fish oil) was proven beneficial in depression through a meta-analysis of fifteen clinical trials (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.4).

Diet is linked to these associated pathways:


  • Twenty-six clinical trials were reviewed and showed reduced inflammation through lowered plasma biomarkers when consuming dietary forms of omega-3 essential fatty acids
    (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.5).

  • A Mediterranean diet is linked to lowered inflammatory markers compared to a low fat diet which actually was shown to increase at least two inflammatory markers.
    (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.4).

  • Many studies support the link between neuro-inflammation, dietary patterns, foods, food sources and nutrients.

  • Natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds found in plant foods have neuro-protective qualities.
    (Businaro et al. 2017, p.1)

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD) and the ‘leaky gut hypothesis’ links gut microbiota and inflammation with depression.

  • Microbiota can influence the development of depression through serotonergic systems (related to serotonin).

  • Interventions to target the microbiome are emerging in cases of depression.
    (Daniels et al. 2017, p.2)


  • The quality of your diet is vital for neurotransmitter transporters, sensitivity of receptors, and for the production of dopamine and serotonin.

  • D2 dopamine receptor density was reduced after consuming a low protein, high carbohydrate diet, long term (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.5).

  • Nutrients to consider are iron, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, zinc, folic acid, tryptophan and other amino acids tyrosine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, leucine and valine.

  • Essential fatty acids are also involved in neurotransmission (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.5).

  • Altered gut microbiome due to nutrition status is linked to cognitive impairment and abnormal neurotransmitter concentrations.

  • Nutrition can influence neurotransmitter, hormonal and signalling pathways which effect mood and appetite.
    (Daniels et al. 2017, p.2)


  • Diet is essential for antioxidant intake.

  • Animal studies show that consumption of a high fat, high sugar diet, increases lipid peroxidation (cell damage) in the brain.

  • Carbohydrate restriction was shown to increase antioxidant markers and reduce oxidative stress in cases of metabolic syndrome.

  • Increased antioxidants in plasma are associated with the Mediterranean diet (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.5).


  • Diet can effect the rate of neuronal degeneration (the loss of structure and/or function of neurons) in the brain, as well as increase nervous system factors.

  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) was decreased in animal studies when on a high fat and high carbohydrate diet.

  • In human studies, consuming a Mediterranean diet showed improved BDNF plasma levels when compared with a low fat diet, specifically in depressed patients.

  • Post brain injury, supplementation with omega-3 normalised BDNF levels and protected the brain against lowered plasticity.

  • BDNF is reduced when consuming a diet low in omega-3.
    (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.5)


  • Cortisol (commonly referred to as the ‘stress’ hormone), is strongly influenced by the type of food consumed as well as the time consumed.

  • A Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced HPA axis dysfunction.

  • In patients with depression, a study showed positive correlation between eight weeks of EPA supplementation and lowered serum cortisol levels.
    (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.5)



  • Nutrition and mitochondrial function are linked.

  • High fat diets and overeating are associated with decreased number of mitochondria.

  • Mitochondrial biogenesis can be stimulated through caloric restriction.

  • Mitochondrial metabolism is positively influenced by nutrients l-carnitine, vitamin B2 and CoQ10.
    (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.6)

  • The following nutrients have been researched in their support to mitochondrial function and may have therapeutic effects in depression; magnesium, vitamin B12, folic acid, zinc, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.
    (Du et al. 2016, p.2).


The research above only begins to scratch the surface on the topic of diet, nutrition and mood. 

This is a topic that I am hugely passionate about and my aim is educate all my readers on the power of nutrition. We truly do have the ability to make change through our food and lifestyle choices.

Something else to consider: SLEEP.

Not only one of my favourite things to actually do, but also a super important part of the picture when it comes to our health. Sleep is often one of the primary topics I cover when speaking to clients, no matter what they are presenting with.

Up to ninety percent of people with depression report sleep disturbance, with insomnia being a predominant feature (Lopresti, A et al. 2013, p.6).

Sleep is also related to the pathways we have spoken about in previously.

Please head to my website to download your free sleep guide!


The information provided on Nutrition Mind Collective is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice or care. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care professional in the event something you have read here raises questions or concerns regarding your health.


Businaro, R, Corsi, M, Asprino, R, Di Lorenzo, C, Laskin, D, Corbo, R, Ricci, S, Pinto, A 2017, ‘Modulation Of Inflammation As A Way Of Delaying Alzheimer’s Disease Progression: The Diet’s Role.’, Current Alzheimer Research, abstract, viewed 5th September 2017,

Daniels, J, Koopman, M, El Aidy, S 2017, ‘Depressed gut? The microbiota-diet-inflammation trialogue in depression’, Current Opinion In Psychiatry, vol. 30, no. 5, pp. 369 – 377, viewed 5th September 2017,

Du, J, Zhu, M, Bao, H, Dong, Y, Xiao, C, Zhang, G, Henter, I, Rudorfer, M, Vitiello, B 2016, ‘The Role of Nutrients in Protecting Mitochondrial Function and Neurotransmitter Signaling: Implications for the Treatment of Depression, PTSD, and Suicidal Behaviors’, Critical Reviews In Food Science And Nutrition, vol. 56, no. 15, pp. 2560 – 2578, viewed 5th September 2017,

Lopresti, A, Hood, S, Drummond, P 2013, ‘A review of lifestyle factors that contribute to important pathways associated with major depression: Diet, sleep…’, Journal of Affective Disorders, vol. 148, no. 1, pp.  1 – 16, viewed 28th August 2017,