Dr. Begdache is currently an assistant professor at the Binghamton University College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
Her research focuses on assessing the impact of diet and lifestyle factors on mental distress with a specific focus on age-group and gender.
Customized Diets and Lifestyle Factors May Optimize Mental Wellbeing
Mental illnesses are common in the United States. Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (52.9 million in 2020). What if customized diets and lifestyle changes could be key to optimizing mental health?
It is becoming evident that diet plays a major role in modulating mental health. We need to consider a spectrum of dietary and lifestyle changes based on different age groups and gender. No one healthy diet works for everyone. There is not one fix.
Our research suggests a need to consider the differences in degree of brain maturity between young (18–29 years old) and mature (30 years or older) adults, as well as the brain morphology among men and women.
Young adults are still forming new connections between brain cells as well as building structures; therefore, they need more energy and nutrients to do so.
As a result, young adults who consume a poor-quality diet and experience nutritional deficiencies may suffer from a higher degree of mental distress.
One of our interesting findings related to age is high caffeine consumption being associated with mental distress in both young men and young women.
This is an important finding, since young adults tend to consume high levels of coffee, energy drinks and soda, most of which are loaded with caffeine.
We have also found that men are less likely to be affected by diet quality than women are. As long as men eat a slightly healthy diet they will experience mental well-being. It’s only when they consume mostly a very poor-quality diet such as fast food that they start experiencing mental distress.
Women, on the other hand, need a spectrum of healthy food and regular exercise to experience mental well-being.
Current recommendations for food intake are all based on physical health; there is an obvious need to create dietary recommendations for brain health.