‘What we stick in our mouths matters to our mental health,’ says a leading light in this new field. So what should we be eating?

Felice Jacka’s work showing that junk food shrinks the brain was motivated by personal experience. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, Jacka struggled with anxiety and panic disorders; by the time she enrolled at art school, she was accustomed to regular bouts of depression, too, leaving her “devoid of happy feelings and unable to experience pleasure”.

But in her late 20s Jacka managed to recover and stay well by focusing on her diet, exercise and sleep. The effect was so marked that it inspired her to put her life as an artist on hold in order to dedicate herself to studying the effects of diet on mental health.

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".

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19 April 2019