National Nutrition Month: Improvements in diet linked to better psychological resilience

“We are what we eat,” is a common adage. Emphasizing the importance of diet, a nutrition education and information campaign, National Nutrition Month (NNM) is observed in March every year, in the U.S., by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It focuses on the importance of developing sound eating habits as well as physical activity. This year’s theme, “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” serves as a reminder that each individual holds the tool to make healthier food choices and that making small changes during this month, and over time, helps improve his/her health.

Better Healthy Eating Index (HEI), a measure of diet quality, has long been associated with positive health outcomes. Now, researchers have tried to assess the relationship between psychological resilience and diet quality using HEI. According to a cross-sectional study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in November 2016, small improvements in diet are linked to better psychological resilience. Viewed primarily as a mental construct, psychological resilience allows an individual to successfully adapt to adverse conditions.

Psychological resilience is considered an important trait for military personnel as they often face occupational stressors. So, the researchers involved young military personnel for the study. A total of 834 female and male participants enrolled in the study in a randomized controlled trial.

To evaluate habitual dietary intake and HEI-2010 scores for the three months prior to the start of initial military training, the participants completed a certified food frequency questionnaire that measured food and beverage consumption under the management of registered dietitian nutritionists. In addition, data was collected before the initiation of military training and before initiation of the study intervention.

Better diet quality associated with resilience

Basis the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale scores, the study participants were divided into low-resilience and high-resilience groups. As per the study results, the low-resilience group consisted of a greater proportion of people who were less educated, smokers and had lower mean HEI scores. In comparison, the high-resilience group included older, more educated and a greater proportion of black/African Americans. The high-resilience group also saw fewer smokers and people with greater mean HEI scores. The research found no difference in the proportion of males and females within the groups.

The study concluded that better diet quality was associated with resilience. After including race, ethnicity, age, sex, BMI, smoking and military branch, the researchers observed that a higher HEI predicted an increased likelihood of a participant being in the high-resilience group. The results also indicated that with every 10-point increase in the HEI score, there was a 22 percent increased likelihood of being in the high-resilience group.

The study found a meaningful relationship between diet quality and resilience in young men and women. It also suggested that a closer adherence to the dietary guidelines for Americans and consumption of total fruit and more dark-green vegetables was associated with greater resilience.

Help at hand

As the study suggests that even small differences in diet quality might be associated with improved psychological resilience in young adults. Thus, registered dietitian/ nutritionists should continue to encourage small and solid changes in diet.

For those who continue to suffer from any kind of mental disorder irrespective of dietary changes, it is important to get timely diagnoses and treatment. One should understand that mental health illness can be treated with medical intervention. If you or a loved one is suffering from any mental disorder, contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to find the finest mental health counseling programs for the illness. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with experts to know about one of the best mental health rehabilitation centers in the U.S.