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Our mood and gut are connected

Our gut and brain are actually linked via a unique gut-brain axis. What this means is that our gut health, can impact far more than just our physical health, even our mental health, and well-being.

Let’s look at it further through 2 research studies!

Study 1 (Jacka et al, 2017)

The SMILEs trial was a 12-week, single-blind RCT to study the impact of dietary intervention on the management of clinical depression in adults (n=67). The dietary intervention involved individual consultations with dietitians and suggestions to implement a modified Mediterranean dietary pattern (prioritizing whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, low-fat dairy, nuts, lean meat, fish, eggs, and olive oil whilst reducing sweets, refined flours, fried and processed foods, sweetened drinks). The control group did not receive any dietary advice or intervention.

Findings: The group that received dietary support had a significant reduction in depression symptoms at the 12-week mark, compared to baseline. Nearly 33% of participants in the dietary intervention group met the criteria for remission compared to 8% from the control group.

Study 2 (Mucjcic & Oswald, 2016)

This was a prospective observational study that analyzed the data of over 12,000 adults who completed a food diary and survey. Researchers explored the incidental effect of fruit and vegetable consumption with self-reported happiness and life satisfaction across the 3 years of data collection.

Findings: An increased fruit and vegetable intake was linked to a positive improvement in self-reported life satisfaction, with one additional service being associated with an average increase in life satisfaction by 0.24 points. Notably, this positive change may seem little but is substantial, it is equivalent to the negative change in life satisfaction observed during a transition from employment to unemployment.

Key takeaways

–    These studies provide a (small) glimpse into the effect of food choices on mental health and well-being

–    Both studies observed positive changes with foods that are known to be beneficial for the gut

–    Even a small change, such as one additional serving of vegetables or fruit, can make a difference!


–    Mujcic, R., & J Oswald, A. (2016). Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables. American journal of public health, 106(8), 1504–1510.–    Jacka, F. N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R., Itsiopoulos, C., Cotton, S., Mohebbi, M., Castle, D., Dash, S., Mihalopoulos, C., Chatterton, M. L., Brazionis, L., Dean, O. M., Hodge, A. M., & Berk, M. (2017). A randomized controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC medicine, 15(1), 23.


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