“Okay, Bill, I’ll admit it – I eat horribly. But could changing that really improve my mood issues? I’m skeptical.”

No need to be, according to Canadian researchers Bonnie Kaplan, PhD and Karen M. Davison, PhD, RD. Their mood disorder-relevant-and-hopeful study was recently published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Oh, before we get started – what you’re about to read is a summary of a medscape.com article that caught my eye (no plagiarism on this ship). You’ll find a link to the piece all the way downstairs.

Let’s set sail!

So, the work of Drs. Kaplan and Davison reveals a link between enhanced levels of nutrient intake and improved emotional/mental health. The evidence was certainly out there, but this most recent work bangs the point home.

According to Kaplan…

People who suffer from mood disorders function better when they are eating better. It really is true that you are what you eat.

The Meat & Potatoes of the Study

Kaplan and Davison recruited 97 adult participants who’d been diagnosed with a mood disorder. A clinical psychologist was employed to confirm the diagnoses.

Now to the nutritional intake piece – each participant was interviewed by a registered dietician. The mission was to record intake of major nutrients, including carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Also confirmed was the intake of individual nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.

Okay, to truly understand the study, and its results, we need to chat something known as Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF). GAF is a component of what’s known as a multi-axial diagnosis. What’s that? No room at this inn, but this chipur article will fill in the blanks.

Simply, GAF is a numeric scale that subjectively rates the social, occupational, and psychological functioning of adults. Here are the two extremes on the scale…

  • 91 – 100: No symptoms. Superior functioning in a wide range of activities, life’s problems never seem to get out of hand, is sought out by others because of his or her many positive qualities.
  • 1 – 10: Persistent danger of severely hurting self or others (e.g., recurrent violence) OR persistent inability to maintain minimal personal hygiene OR serious suicidal act with clear expectation of death.

Now that we have that handled, let’s move on…

The study participants maintained a three-day food diary, recording their intake. They also completed a food frequency questionnaire. And all along, depressive and manic (remember, we’re talking mood disorders here) symptoms were assessed, as were GAF scores.

The Envelope, Please

So how ’bout it? The study showed vitamins and minerals in the participants’ diets were “consistently and reliably” associated with their GAF scores.

Specifically, correlations were found between GAF scores and calories, carbohydrates, fiber, total fat, linoleic acid, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

Furthermore, when dietary supplements were added to nutrient intakes from food, GAF scores remained positively correlated with all dietary minerals.

Given the study good-news, it’s a natural that Kaplan and Davison would emphasize dietary education for those enduring a mood disorder.

According to Kaplan…

We all should be eating better and considering supplements where needed because obviously our brains are dependent upon vitamins and minerals. This study was a clear demonstration of their role in how we feel.

Doctors should consider counselling their patients to eat unprocessed, natural, healthy foods and refer them to a nutrition professional if specialized dietary consultation is needed.

A Second Opinion

Regarding the study results, the folks at Medscape sought the opinion of Felice N. Jacka, PhD. Indeed, Dr. Jacka found the work interesting; however, she called for even more research on the subject matter.

Jacka looks at it this way. Exercise is a “research-proven” beneficial treatment strategy for depression. And though the results of Kaplan and Davison’s work certainly indicates dietary improvement is in the same category, there were a few issues with the structure of the study that kept it from being a lock.

Playing it close to the vest, Jacka says this…

From the epidemiological evidence, we see that both physical activity and diet quality seem to be independent risk factors for depression, so it is plausible that dietary improvement may be as effective as exercise in treating depression.

And wouldn’t you know it. Jacka has formed her own research team to address that may.


Are you wondering what to do about depression? Maybe it’s about some degree of mania – or both. In my opinion, the best first approach to relief and healing is hitting the basics.

The study tells us enhanced levels of nutrient intake improve emotional/mental health. So why not take a long look at that diet of yours and effect change where indicated?

Makes perfect sense to me!

As promised, here’s a link to the original article on medscape.com. But just so you know, you’ll likely have to register to view it.

Would you like to read more articles on the biology of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder? Tap here. More chipur Feelin’ Better articles? Try this.

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