According to a new study conducted by a team of researchers at the Binghamton University, New York – what you eat affects your mood, and what you should eat should change as you get older.
In an online survey study of adults over 18, the team divided the results into two groups of people. The young (aged 18-29) and the mature (30+) – this is not based on maturity from an intellectual point of view, but brain development.
Neuroscientists believe that the brain might continue to mature until around the age of 30, and so influential factors for mood may be different according to age. And for this study, they looked at the influence of food.
What they found was, young adults who ate a higher intake of red meat and poultry had higher levels of mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain, which include serotonin and dopamine.
These chemicals may not be associated with mood enhancement in the mature brain, because it may develop less sensitivity to them.
In the mature population, more antioxidants from a wide range of fruit and vegetables were found to have a more positive effect on mood. It’s possible that, as we age, our need for antioxidants grows, because the aging body succumbs more to the free radicals we’re exposed to.
The mature brain may also not be able to respond well to stimulants that activate the “fight or flight” response in older adults, suggesting that foods high in caffeine and certain carbohydrates should be avoided to promote better mood and mental health.
So should young adults avoid vegetarianism and chow down a beef burger instead?
Trust a nutritionist to dampen the “good news”. Not really! Exercise also increases serotonin and dopamine, and poultry would be a better option than red meat. Red meat is fine if eaten infrequently, but there are still links to other potential health issues such as higher risk of some cancers, and the link between red meat and heart disease.
Eating meat as part of a balanced diet is a great way to source protein and vitamins such as B12, but should always form the smaller part of a meal.
The biggest take home message for me is, as you age – increase your consumption of fruit and veg, and include exercise in all your years.
If you think that you or a close friend or relative may suffer from any issue around mental health, seek advice from mentalhealth.org.uk to see the best ways to get help.
News Release from Binghamton University, New York
Medical News Today article
This blog post is intended as an interesting and informative read for anyone with a general interest in health and nutrition. It is not intended to give any form of medical advice or opinion. If you suffer from any of the mentioned symptoms, you should seek the opinion of a medically trained professional and not rely on the contents of this post. I’m a nutritionist guys, not a dietitian or a medical doctor.
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat.