Mediterranean Diet May Reduce or Prevent Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, New Research Shows


A Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits and fish may help reduce or avoid symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to investigation published this week in the journal Nature Mental Health.

The peer-reviewed findings are based on patient data from two studies, one in 2008 and another in 2013, which together involved tens of thousands of female participants. The researchers behind those studies collected stool samples as well as information about the women’s mental health and eating habits.

The findings could help inform dietary recommendations for people vulnerable to PTSD, such as those serving in the military, said Carol Shively, a professor of pathology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine who was not involved in the research. .

Shively own research has shown that the Mediterranean diet protects against exaggerated stress responses in monkeys.

“When you put that in the context of PTSD, I think what’s going to happen is that, in response to overt stress, if you’re eating a Mediterranean diet, you’re not going to have these horrible stress responses that can be very harmful. Shively said.

For the last In the study, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health selected 191 women from the above cohorts: 44 with PTSD symptoms, 119 who had experienced trauma but without PTSD symptoms, and 28 who They had experienced neither.

Overall, women in that group who followed a Mediterranean diet (which includes fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fish) experienced fewer symptoms of PTSD.

Plant-based foods in particular were negatively associated with PTSD symptoms, while red and processed meats were positively associated with PTSD symptoms.

The link between diet and post-traumatic stress disorder

Around 4% of the world population has had PTSD in his life. The disorder develops in certain people who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events such as serious injuries, violence or deaths, but researchers are still discovering why.

“Many people are exposed to trauma, but only a small percentage develop PTSD. It’s always been a mystery,” said Christopher Lowry, an associate professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who was not involved in the research.

Diet could be an important part of that explanation, he said.

The brain and the gastrointestinal system, or “gut,” which includes the stomach, intestines, and colon, send signals back and forth through a complex system of nerves, hormones, and chemicals. As a result, poor gut health has been linked to various mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression. TO study Last year he also found signs of intestinal inflammation in people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, in particular, has been linked to dysregulation of brain circuits that manage stress and fear responses. Studies have shownfor example, that people with post-traumatic stress disorder have overactive amygdalae, which are a region of the brain that helps process emotions.

According to Yang-Yu Liu, author of the study, the gut microbiome (or the microorganisms, including bacteria, that live in the digestive tract) influences both the development and response of the amygdala.

“That might be why the gut microbiome is important for PTSD,” said Liu, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Several components of the Mediterranean diet, such as fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, are known to support gut health, which in turn may influence brain function.

In particular, Liu and his research team identified a species of gut bacteria that seemed related to the Mediterranean diet and appeared to protect against symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Maybe those enriched components of a Mediterranean diet help this particular insect thrive in the gut environment,” Liu said.

Reducing inflammation could be key to brain health

Lowry, however, said he is cautious about attributing any benefits to specific gut bacteria until additional studies replicate the results. He suspects that the Mediterranean diet may help alleviate or prevent PTSD largely by reducing inflammation.

“The Mediterranean diet predominantly has an anti-inflammatory effect, and we have known for decades that inflammation is a risk factor for depression,” he said. “It has now become clear that it is also a risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Several studies in fact I have He suggested that elevated levels of inflammation may play a role in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. and Lowry investigation in American veterans has shown that anti-inflammatory probiotics have the potential to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Mediterranean diet eliminates processed foods high in sugar and saturated or trans fats, which can be very inflammatory, Lowry said.

The human gut is semipermeable and researchers suspect that processed foods may increase its permeability, allowing gut bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This process generates inflammation that can travel from the blood to the central nervous system and have a broad influence on brain function.

Shively said any diet rich in fiber, fresh fruits, vegetables, and plant-based fats and proteins should have the opposite effect.

“There are many reasons not to eat a Western diet and many reasons to eat a healthier diet,” he said. “Now we’ve just added brain and mental health to the pile.”

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