New research has shed light on the links between nutrition, mental health and diabetes, with the team behind it saying their findings could have implications for the wider population.

It is well known that people with diabetes are two or three times more likely to suffer from depression compared to those who do not have the condition.

Assistant professor Raedeh Basiri, from the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at George Mason University, set out to investigate the impact of dietary choices on both diabetes and mental health.

A literature review highlights how a bad diet has a two-pronged effect – it can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and can have a negative effect on mental health.

Assistant professor Basiri and her team also found that having depression and anxiety can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while having diabetes raises the risk of experiencing depression and anxiety.

Nutrition has a part to play in both health conditions, researchers found.

Assistant professor Basiri said: “Our findings underscore the pivotal role of dietary choices in reducing the risks associated with both diabetes and mental health.

“The implications of these findings extend beyond the scientific community, as they hold promise for informing public health policies, health care practices, and dietary recommendations that can positively impact the general population.”

The research showed that a diet filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein was linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, anxiety and depression.

On the flip side, eating a large amount of processed food increased the risk of type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety.

Assistant professor Basiri said: “Ultimately, the research seeks to empower individuals to make informed and health-promoting dietary choices that can serve as a proactive strategy for the prevention and management of diabetes, as well as anxiety and depression.

“Current scientific evidence underscores the potential benefits of adopting a well-balanced dietary regimen in decreasing anxiety and depression symptoms while enhancing glycaemic control in individuals with diabetes.”

Another key finding was the importance of essential nutrients – a diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, selenium, chromium, and magnesium was linked to worse symptoms of poor mental health and the development of type 2 diabetes.

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