Healthy diet is vi­tal for ado­les­cent men­tal health

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

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.

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