The Foods That Protect Against Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are more common in women.

Anxiety disorders are more common in women.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to lowering the risk of anxiety by almost one-quarter, research finds.

The study also found that anxiety disorders are more common in women, in those with low household income and those with other health problems.

The study included 26,991 people who were part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.

Dr Karen Davison, the study’s first author, explained the results:

“For those who consumed less than 3 sources of fruits and vegetables daily, there was at least at 24% higher odds of anxiety disorder diagnosis.”

Higher amounts of body fat were also linked to anxiety, Mr Jose Mora-Almanza, study co-author, said:

“This may also partly explain the findings associated with body composition measures.

As levels of total body fat increased beyond 36%, the likelihood of anxiety disorder was increased by more than 70%.”

Scientists have linked anxiety, as well as other mental health problems with bodily inflammation, said Dr Davison:

“Increased body fat may be linked to greater inflammation. Emerging research suggests that some anxiety disorders can be linked to inflammation.”

One-in-nine women had an anxiety disorder compared with one-in-fifteen men, the study found.

Those with household incomes below $20,000 per year had double the incidence of anxiety.

Dr Hongmei Tong, study co-author, said:

“We were not surprised to find that those in poverty had such a high prevalence of anxiety disorders; struggling to afford basics such as food and housing causes relentless stress and is inherently anxiety inducing.”

Having three or more health conditions increased the risk of anxiety by five-fold.

Mr Shen Lin, study co-author, said:

“Chronic pain and multiple health conditions make life very unpredictable and can be anxiety producing.

One never knows whether health problems will interfere with work or family responsibilities and many activities become more challenging and time consuming.”

Dr Davison said:

“It is estimated that 10% of the global population will suffer from anxiety disorders which are a leading cause of disability.

Our findings suggest that comprehensive approaches that target health behaviors, including diet, as well as social factors, such as economic status, may help to minimize the burden of anxiety disorders among middle-aged and older adults, including immigrants.”

The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (Davison et al., 2020).


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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.