ancestors anxiety and depression

It is only natural that the human body occasionally experiences anxiety and depression, even hundreds of years ago our ancestors struggled with the conditions. However, why is it that the rate of people being diagnosed with anxiety and depression is constantly rising and is an everyday occurrence for many people?

Until 1980, anxiety didn’t even exist. Sure, the symptoms were still present, but the official anxiety disorder diagnosis hadn’t yet been created, so people were unaware of why they were feeling the way they were. However, as the research into anxiety and depression has grown, we have discovered that whilst there are countless reasons for somebody to suffer, foods can actually influence the disorders more than we realise.

Today’s society are shying away from foods that our ancestors ate and didn’t have a problem with, and similarly, we’re putting foods into our bodies that they wouldn’t have dared touch with a barge pole. So how does this actually influence us today?

Take fat for example. We are constantly being told we need to live on fat-free diets, consuming as little fat as possible. Something our ancestors consumed by the bucket load. Whilst not eating as much fat as our ancestors used to may be good for us in some ways, it can also have negative effects on our bodies that we just don’t realise yet.

Over 60% of our brains are comprised of fat, and this fat needs to be maintained otherwise our brain suffers greatly. In this case, the lack of fat can manifest in conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Sarah Conklin, PhD, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, explains:

“We were able to show that individuals who consumed more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets had more gray matter volume in areas of the brain important for regulating mood. These results suggest that these specific fats, certainly not fat in general, may confer a protective effect against depression and other mood-related problems.”

There are many studies that have delved into this topic and explored further the effects of dietary requirements on our mental health, particularly when compared to our ancestors. They are certainly fascinating reads but can they be used to improve our lifestyle today? It’s yet to be explored. For now, I’d recommend sticking to a wholesome diet and working on anxiety and depression through modern-day conventional methods, but who knows, one day our diets may return to the way our ancestors once ate.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you believe that our diets can affect our mental health? Why do you think our ancestors didn’t have the problems we have today?

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I'm a psychology student with a passion for books, good food and movies. I can often be found reading self-help articles snuggled up in bed with a cup of coffee or writing about anything and everything in a quiet cafe somewhere.