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More on Food and Mood

I know that some of you are having quite a time wrenching yourselves away from dieting. You may desperately want to lose weight quickly, feel hopeless that “normal” eating will ever get you there, be scared to trust yourselves, or not want to put in yet more effort to harness your natural appetite in order to manage your weight. Although I’m anti diet, this blog is for those of you who are struggling to give it up, even as you inch toward employing the principles of eating more “normally.”

If you insist on following some kind of food plan, for mood at least, consider choosing one that’s low-fat rather than low-carb. That’s the skinny according to an article entitled “Memory and Mood May Depend on Muscle Strength and Diet Choices” in the February 2010 issue of the Duke Medicine Healthletter. The article states: the “Commonwealth of Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Adelaide, Australia, found that after one year, people on a low-calorie, low-fat diet reported a significantly more positive mood than those who ate a low-carbohydrate diet with the same number of calories. The study noted that weight loss was similar in both groups, but after a temporary improvement in mood among the low-carbohydrate group, most of them eventually returned to what their mood was at the start of the year-long study.”

Dr. Kristen D’Anci with the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University concluded, “What we are seeing here is not increased negative mood overall following a low-carb diet, but increased duration of positive changes in the low-fat condition.” The article goes on to say that it is not known why a low-fat diet correlated to a more positive mood than the low-carb diet did, but a possibility is that higher fat intake may have a more detrimental effect on levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin, as most of you know, is a neurotransmitter which modulates our emotions. An alternative explanation is that the intense restrictions on the low-carb eaters group may have contributed to mood suppression.

On a related note, in talking with a telephone client recently who is under a great deal of stress and who insisted she cannot stop eating emotionally right now, I recommended that she not try to reduce her food consumption during this period, but that she seek low-fat carbs that were healthier than their high-fat counterparts. That is, if she were going to eat chips, crackers, bread or cereal—her drugs of choice to diminish stress—then she should make them of the low-fat variety. You don’t have to always make “the best” food choices, but remember that some are better than others.

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