Diet Quality and Depression in Children, Adolescents and Adults – A/Prof Felice Jacka

Posted on: June 29, 2016
Last Updated: September 27, 2020

Associate Professor Felice Jacka has an ongoing research program that focuses on lifestyle as a risk factor for common mental health disorders, depression, and anxiety. It comprises a broad range of epidemiological and population health investigations with extensive partnerships and collaborations in Australia and elsewhere, involving acknowledged experts in the field of psychiatry and population health. A/Prof Jacka’s primary goal is to develop a coherent public health message and effective best practice strategies for the universal primary prevention of common mental disorders.

Author Quotes 

The sooner we break down the silos between psychiatry and the rest of medicine the better off we will be.

We know that the strongest predictors of systemic inflammation and the associated oxidative stress, apart from severe medical illnesses, are lifestyle behaviours.

All of the research in primary care, which is of course where most of the patients and people with depression manifest first, shows that the strongest predictor of major depression is poor physical health. All of these systems are intimately linked and addressing physical health will have benefits.

We have a term now called globesity – changes to the food system that developed primarily in the west, but we are now seeing rapid increases of obesity all over the globe.

A generation ago type II diabetes was almost unheard of in India; whereas, now a child born in India will have a 1 in 2 chance of developing it.

We know that the way we eat habitually is a very strong predictor of CVD, stroke, obesity, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, some cancers and now dementia.

We don’t just eat individual nutrients – we eat whole diets that are enormously complex in their composition and the way each of those components interact… we need to look at whole dietary patterns.

Summary and slides  

Professor Jacka presents her research as an epidemiologist and how findings from population health studies support the view of a holistic approach to psychiatric medicine.  

She discusses how lifestyle behaviors are linked with higher levels of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, and how good physical health may be vital for good mental health.  

Introducing the term ‘globesity’, she highlights how there has been a rapid increase in overweight and obesity as a result of changes to the food system, not only in the West but across the globe. 

Moving on, she discusses the increase in type 2 diabetes in the Indian population which was negligible only a generation ago, but today a child has a 1 in 2 chance of developing the disease. 

This video excerpt concludes with an explanation of how the two pictures shown above do not necessarily correlate with each other and are independently related to outcomes.  

Take-Home Points

  • Good mental health is important for good physical health; the converse is also true 
  • Western food is ubiquitous across the world as it comes from manufacturers 
  • Dietary epidemiological research is relevant to dementia as well as common psychiatric disorders 


Learn more

  1. Impact of Nutritional Deficiencies in the Pre and Post Natal Period on Child Brain Development – Prof Jacka
  2. The Impact of Diet Quality on Mental Health – Prof Felice Jacka
  3. Role of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR) – Prof Felice Jacka
  4. Can Diet Patterns be Predictive of Mental Health Disorders? – Prof Felice Jacka
  5. Generational Changes in Diet and Role of Supplements – Prof Felice Jacka
  6. Diet as a Prevention Strategy in Mental Health – Prof Felice Jacka