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Women need more nutrients than men for emotional well-being

2 min read

New research has suggested that women needs a greater variety of nutrients in their diet to support mood, compared to men. The research points to polyphenols, omega-3 oils and folate as being particularly beneficial.

Women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression

The research team, lead by Dr Lina Begdache states:

"Differential responses may be linked to differences in brain morphology between men and women. The biggest takeaway is that women may need a larger spectrum of nutrients to support mood, compared to men."

"These findings may explain the reason why women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression and suffer for longer episodes, compared to men. Today's diet is high in energy but poor in key nutrients that support brain anatomy and functionality."

Nutrition has been shown to influence brain structure and chemistry

The study looks into the risk factors that may explain differences between the male and female brain, nutrition is one such risk factor as it has already been shown to influence brain structure and chemistry.

The current trend in nutritional research, specific to health and disease, is to analyse dietary patterns (DP) rather than single nutrients, particularly their effect on mental distress.

DP analysis considers the complexity of nutrient interactions and the difference in the daily dietary intake. As well as the fact that the build-up of nutrients over time rather than a one off consumption plays a substantial role in mental health. The Mediterranean Diet serves as an example of this sort of analysis.

The study comprised 563 participants (48% men and 52% women) who were surveyed through a Food-Mood Questionnaire (FMQ) designed to assess dietary and nutrient consumption patterns. Average weekly servings of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, beans, nuts, diary, fish and high glycaemic foods was assessed as well as frequency of breakfast consumption, use of multivitamins, fish oil supplements, eating fast food and drinking caffeinated beverages.

Mental well being associated with a Mediterranean-like diet and lifestyle

Dr Begdache found that mental distress in men was associated with a consumption of a western-like diet whilst in women mental well being was associated with a Mediterranean-like diet and lifestyle.

In addition to these findings, it was also shown that men were more likely to experience mental wellbeing until nutritional deficiencies arise.

However women were less likely to experience mental well being when a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle were followed.

Begdache states:

"Evidence suggests that our ancestors' diet, which was high-energy-nutrient-dense diet, contributed significantly to brain volumes and cognitive evolution of mankind."

"Males and females had different physical and emotional responsibilities that may have necessitated different energy requirements and food preference."

Commenting on the Mediterranean diet, the research team suggested that its reputation was well deserved, going as far as to say it is perfect example of a healthy diet. 

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.