Did you ever think the food we eat might affect more than just our weight and cardiovascular health? If so, then you’re on to something. New research suggests a connection between a person’s nutrition and the likelihood of having an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
The association is among several interesting findings involving the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, a research project that has focused on the Canadian population for more than 20 years.
The new study examined more than 27,000 people between age 45 and 85, nearly 1,400 of whom had been diagnosed with PTSD.
The study found people who reported eating two or three sources of fiber each day were statistically less likely to have PTSD episodes than those on lower-fiber diets. The researchers say this link may be because dietary fiber has a mental health-related protective effect in many people. For instance, short-chain fatty acids, which are produced in the human gut when bacteria ferment fiber, can communicate with cells that affect brain function.
Other findings in the study relate to PTSD and patients’ age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomics and immigrant status. One out of seven people in the study with an annual income of $20,000 or less reported having PTSD. The authors were careful not to draw any cause-and-effect conclusions, noting they can’t say if PTSD prevented a person from working, resulting in poverty, or whether the stress of being in poverty exacerbated their PTSD.
The findings suggest those seeking to help people struggling with PTSD should consider a number of factors that might not seem obvious, such as ethnicity, age and, surprisingly, nutrition.