Healthy diet is vital for adolescent mental health
New Zealand adolescents may need to increase their fruit and vegetable intake and reduce unhealthy options like sugary drinks and takeaways, to protect their mental health.
In a recent University of Auckland study, adolescents on a diet high in junk food had lower mental health scores, while those on a diet high in healthy foods had higher mental health scores.
The study aimed to examine the relationship between diet quality and self-reported emotional health in a large, ethnically diverse adolescent population in Auckland.
‘‘This is part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that a diet of junk food might reduce mental well-being and that healthy food may improve mental well-being – although this will take clinical trials to demonstrate this effect with confidence,’’ says Professor Boyd Swinburn, who is an expert in population nutrition.
‘‘Both parts are important and independent of each other, so it is important to not only increase fruit and vegetable intake, but also to reduce sugary drinks, takeaways, and unhealthy snacks.
‘‘Adolescence is a critical time for physical and psychological growth, and promoting mental health during this period is essential to the health and well-being of adolescents,’’ Swinburn says. ‘‘It is estimated that, each year, 20 per cent of adolescents suffer from a mental health disorder.’’ Depression is the most prevalent mental health disorder, and is the primary contributor to disability in adolescence with significant negative physical, emotional and social consequences and continued implications for future quality of life.
‘‘Successful physical and mental development during adolescence is dependent on adequate nutritional intake.’’
Healthy choices: A recent study found New Zealand adolescents who enjoy a diet high in healthy foods had higher mental health scores than those were ate lots of junk food.