Field Notes

Dietary Strategies May Promote Mental Health in Young Adults

Healthful dietary patterns are associated with higher frequency of exercise and mental well-being in young adults, according to new research led by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

“Young adults are known to be at a higher risk of mental distress,” says Lina Begdache, PhD, RDN, CDN, CNS-S, FAND, an assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University. “The impact of diet on mood has been highlighted in previous studies. However, most studies depicting the role of nutrients on mood were performed on a wide range of ages and generalized the results to both sexes.”

The researchers invited adults aged 18 to 29 to complete a food-mood questionnaire. The anonymous questionnaire was distributed to several institutional listservs and via several social media platforms targeting young adults. A multilevel analysis, including machine learning techniques, was used to assess these relationships. The results suggest that, for young men and women, healthful dietary patterns are associated with higher frequency of exercise and mental well-being, and vice versa. However, this study also investigated the impact of food groups and exercise within a dietary pattern on mental well-being.

“The study fills several gaps in the literature, namely that exercise significantly mediates the effect of food groups to promote mental well-being,” Begdache says. “Another interesting hypothesis generated from our results is that despite following a healthful diet and lifestyle, if triggers of mental distress (such as caffeine) exceed certain thresholds, mood is negatively impacted. In addition, the results provide compelling evidence that mental health is modulated not only by a dietary pattern but by the weight (concentration) of food groups and exercise frequency, which needs further investigation.” Another interesting observation is that exercise may be mediating the effect of food. For instance, exercise within a healthful dietary pattern maximizes the beneficial effect of healthful food and minimizes the impact of triggers.

Begdache says it would be good to use the information gained from this research to tailor dietary intake based on sex to optimize mental well-being. Diet and mood recording may be helpful to pinpoint the potential triggers or preventers of mental distress.

Going forward, the researchers are studying the impact of stress and comparing some dietary factors between athletes and nonathletes to study the impact of exercise.

— Source: Endocrine Society


Paper Outlines Suggested Parameters for Studying Hypertension Risk

Managing chronic hypertension in the US populace remains a challenge, but carefully designing new studies to find the optimal dietary sodium-to-potassium ratio could improve how we address elevated blood pressure.

Currently, sodium is overconsumed while potassium intakes are lower than recommended, thus requiring attention to the ratio of the two in future research designs. This was called out as a critical research need in the 2019 Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

According to a new perspectives paper, which appears in the journal Advances in Nutrition, a robust human intervention trial with careful attention to study population, duration, diets, and blood pressure measures will advance the knowledge needed to address high blood pressure by improving the understanding of the optimal dietary sodium-to-potassium ratio.

The authors provide a set of recommendations for the design and conduct of a dietary sodium and potassium ratio intervention study. According to the paper, if the optimal sodium-to-potassium ratio “requires potassium supplementation, study findings could help support a potassium fortification or substitution program that would lower sodium and raise potassium in the food supply.” Once research is completed, “it needs to be translated into practical and applied implications in food choices and the overall diet.”

According to lead author David Baer, PhD, with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the article “focuses on considerations in designing a research study to determine the optimal level of dietary sodium and potassium to improve blood pressure in the US population.”

A recent World Health Organization review found that more than 700 million people have untreated hypertension worldwide, indicating the importance of advancing science in this public health area.

— Source: Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences