Link is food for thought

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - MADURA McCOR­MACK

A TOWNSVILLE- based re­searcher has called for more ef­fort to be put into pro­vid­ing ac­cess to healthy food in North Queens­land, as the sci­en­tific links be­tween diet and men­tal health grow stronger.

Pro­fes­sor Zoltan Sarnyai, of James Cook Univer­sity, said nu­tri­tion was one piece of the puz­zle when it came to a healthy state of mind.

“There is more and more ev­i­dence out there to in­di­cate that nu­tri­tional fac­tors in­flu­ence brain func­tion,” he said.

“More and more peo­ple are re­ly­ing on pre­pared food that you can buy in a store.

“Es­pe­cially in this part of the world, it is im­por­tant and crit­i­cal that peo­ple have as much ac­cess as pos­si­ble to nu­tri­tional re­sources that are ben­e­fi­cial to health and men­tal health.”

Prof Sarnyai’s com­ments come af­ter his team of re­searchers found a link be­tween the con­sump­tion of fast food and de­pres­sion in a unique ob­ser­va­tional study in­volv­ing two is­lands in the Tor­res Strait.

The team in­ter­viewed about 100 peo­ple on Thurs­day Is­land and Mer Is­land, ask­ing them about their di­ets, screen­ing them for de­pres­sion and tak­ing blood sam­ples.

Peo­ple on the more iso­lated Mer Is­land, which has no fast­food out­lets, re­ported sig­nif­i­cantly higher seafood con­sump­tion and lower take­away food con­sump­tion com­pared to peo­ple on Thurs­day Is­land, which has two fast- food out­lets.

The study found 19 par­tic­i­pants had mod­er­ate to se­vere de­pres­sive symp­toms – 16 of those from the is­land where fast food was read­ily avail­able.

Prof Sarnyai warned it would be pre­ma­ture to con­clude that diet can have a last­ing im­pact on de­pres­sion risk but said a larger, more ro­bust, study could prove valu­able.

Dr Matthew Bam­bling, from the Univer­sity of Queens­land’s Fac­ulty of Medicine, said re­search into the “gut- brain axis” had ac­cel­er­ated in re­cent years, in­clud­ing the com­ple­tion of a study map­ping the ge­netic makeup of the gut.

“We’re much more than our thoughts,” he said. “It’s pos­si­ble to give our­selves dys­bio­sis and leaky gut just from stress.”

A clin­i­cal trial, of which Dr Bam­bling is a co- in­ves­ti­ga­tor, is try­ing to con­clu­sively de­ter­mine if a “one- two punch” of pro­bi­otics and an­other com­pound can ame­lio­rate de­pres­sion through the gut.

Prof Sarnyai said, be­yond nu­tri­tion, other stud­ies had found ex­er­cise helped those strug­gling with men­tal ill­ness.

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