A few years ago a friend and colleague, Dr. Susan Kleiner, gave me a copy of her book, The Good Mood Diet. Dr. Kleiner is one of the top performance dietitians and wrote this book to explain how we can use food to effect our mood.
Last week a study from the University of Toronto was published showing how the foods we eat is related to our moods. Dr. Kleiner’s book was published in 2007 which means she was talking about this at least 13 years ago. And the now the research is coming out to support what she’s been saying all along.
This study is a part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. CLSA is a long term study of 50,000 Canadian adults and follows them for at least 20 years. A variety of factors are examined with respect to the impact they have on disease and disability as we age.
The U of T study found that individuals who ate fewer than 3 servings of fruits and vegetables daily were 24% more likely to suffer from anxiety. And when the level of obesity increased so did the likelihood of having anxiety. For example, when obesity was over 36% the chance of anxiety increased by over 70%.
The authors speculated that with higher levels of obesity there would be increased levels of inflammation. And other research is indicating there may be a connection to inflammation and anxiety.
Besides how many fruits and vegetables we eat and our level of obesity there are other factors related to anxiety. These factors include the sex of the individual, their income, their immigration status, marital status and other health factors.
About 11%, or 1 in 9, women will suffer from anxiety compared to 7%, or 1 in 15, men. The authors do admit to the limitation of their findings as anxiety was self reported rather than by a physician. If someone hasn’t had a medical professional give them a diagnosis how likely are they to assess themselves as suffering from a condition?
In terms of marital status, single people suffer from anxiety at a rate of 13.9% compared to 7.8% for those with partners. The study didn’t specify if a partner meant a married spouse or something else.
Income has a strong effect on anxiety. 1 in 5, or 20%, of those making less than $20,000 per year have anxiety. This rate is double that of those higher incomes. I remember Seinfeld saying the number one fear for a lot people was public speaking and number two was death. But as it relates to anxiety finances plays a big role as we can be concerned about bills, interest payments and taxes.
The number of health conditions a person lives with has an impact on their level of anxiety. Specifically when individuals have 3 or more health conditions they are 5x more likely to have anxiety. Put another way if someone has low back pain, hypertension and diabetes, or any 3 health conditions, they would have a 16.4% chance of anxiety versus a 3% chance for those with less than 2 health conditions.
As for where you were born, immigrants have a lower chance of suffering from anxiety. To me this makes sense. Canada repeatedly makes lists for being one of the best countries in the world to live in. When immigrants move to Canada they must truly believe they have won the lottery. Although immigrants have to overcome learning a new language, culture and customs there is also the added stress of leaving family behind when starting out in Canada. I guess we should take this as a sign of how good we’ve got it here in the west.
So to minimize your chances of suffering from anxiety make sure to:
- Eat at least 3 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. And don’t just state the goal in this way. Instead think of what you need to do in order to eat 3 servings per day. This might mean including the foods in your shopping list. Or looking at a menu before going out to know what options you have. It might mean packing a lunch with either a fruit or vegetable or both. Think of all the steps that would go into allowing you to eat 3 servings per day rather than simply wishing for it to happen.
- Live as lean as possible. As increasing obesity relates to anxiety look to decrease bodyfat. First set up the right mindset for success. Next, get your sleep in order. Eat a low-sugar diet and drink water. Journal your nutrition. And pick exercise that you enjoy and can do consistently.
- Find a partner. I’m not much of a match maker so I can’t really provide much value for the bachelors/bachelorettes out there. The only advice I can give is to be the best version of yourself and you’ll most likely be happier and more attractive to another.
- Produce something of value. Producers get paid and there is always a market for those that deliver a solution to those in need. Higher levels of education help. But to really get ahead focus more on saving than on earning.
- Stay healthy. The more health conditions someone faces the greater their chances of suffering from anxiety. We know previous injury is a top predictor of subsequent injury. And once someone is compromised in one area of their they are more susceptible to more health problems.
Davison, K.M.; Lin, S.L.; Tong, H.; Kobayashi, K.M.; Mora-Almanza, J.G.; Fuller-Thomson, E. 2020. Nutritional Factors, Physical Health and Immigrant Status Are Associated with Anxiety Disorders among Middle-Aged and Older Adults: Findings from Baseline Data of The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 17(5): 1493.