A new study suggests that a fiber rich diet may promote mental well-being in women as it lowers the risk of depression in them.
When it comes to good health, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables are diets you should consider. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consuming foods that are rich in fiber can help reduce the risk of chronic disease by making you feel full. As a result of this, your weight will be maintained.
Another research suggests that women who consume a diet rich in fiber will be less depressed than those who don’t.
An associate professor at Chungang University College of Medicine in Seoul, Jung-Ha Kim, says previous studies have confirmed that eating diets rich in fiber can modulate the richness and diversity of the gut microbiota. He continued that this process can promote brain health by aiding neurotransmission.
Kristi Tough DeSapri, a medical doctor and professor of medicine in Chicago says increasing the amount of fiber intake by eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is good for the health. She added that these diets help to decrease the risk of diabetes, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and is also good for gastrointestinal health.
According to the FDA, dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that contains sugar molecules linked together. Due to its composition, it takes time to digest, unlike other carbohydrates.
In addition to preventing the risk of disease, fiber helps to maintain a healthy weight since it’s a staple in plant-based diets like vegetarian, vegan and Mediterranean diets.
Studies from the Cleveland clinic reveal that a woman’s estrogen and fertility levels decrease with age until menopause. Estrogen levels tend to increase and decrease when women are still having a regular menstrual cycle.
During the perimenopause stage, the estrogen levels drop significantly. A woman can be considered to have experienced menopause when there is a permanent cessation of her monthly period for a year in a row. The level of estrogen production further reduces at this stage.
Several studies have been conducted to find the link between fiber and mental health, but one of the studies involved premenopausal and post-menopausal women.
In this study, 5,807 women were selected with a median age of 47. A total of 2,949 women were premenopausal while the other 2,858 were post-menopausal. Participants were asked to recall what they ate in the last 24 hours to calculate their fiber intake.
Depression was tested by the use of Patient Health Questionnaire-9, which includes questions about appetite levels, mood, energy, and more.
Researchers discovered that a higher dietary intake of fiber was linked with a lower risk of reporting symptoms of depression. Also, researchers found that perimenopausal women had a lower risk of depression, but there was no significant difference in menopausal women who consumed more fiber.
DeSapri says that the result of the study is basically about the relationship between fiber intake and decreased risk of depression. After certain variables were removed, there was a reduction in depression. She further emphasized that the reduction was very little; about 6% in premenopausal women and 2% in post-menopausal women.
Even though the reduction was little, it shows that more fiber intake may decrease the risk of depression.
A study published in July 2017 in Psychiatry Research shows that a healthy diet that contains fruits, vegetables, and whole grains was linked to a decrease in the risk of depression.
Another researcher, Stephanie Faubion, says that the findings are interesting but majorly based on assumptions. She says the researchers who conducted the previous studies are only assuming that fiber intake impacts depression, which is not true.
Faubion buttressed her point by stating that depressed people may have a poor diet and less fiber due to their depressive symptoms. “Maybe they are too depressed to cook or seek out healthy meals. People tend to take care of themselves better when their mood is better,” She says. Depression makes people chose the less healthy options.
She continued that it is wrong for people to accept the assertion which says an improvement in one’s diet can treat depression. Faubion described this as a “dangerous message”. She says it is better for people who are feeling symptoms of depression to seek professional help.
This doesn’t imply that there is no relationship between what you eat and how your brain functions, says Faubion. She believes there is a connection between what we eat and our mood.
Connection Between Estrogen and Fiber
For now, there is no obvious reason for the relationship between more fiber and fewer symptoms of depression in premenopausal women existed. But previous studies have shown there might be an interaction between estrogen and cut microbiota, Dr. Kim says.
“Because post-menopausal women experience estrogen depletion, the decreased interaction between estrogen and the gut microbiota may be related to the insignificant association between dietary fiber Intake and depression in post-menopausal women,” she says.
A study published in May 2020 revealed that eating diets rich in fiber was linked with having fewer symptoms of depression in premenopausal women.
Whether the connection between estrogen and gut microbiota is responsible for the results is still unknown, says Faubion. She further explained that it is a fact, estrogen impacts every organ and tissue in the body. There a possibility that there’s a differential effect based on estrogen, but it’s hasn’t been proven yet.
Even though the results of the study didn’t reveal the benefits for post-menopausal women, this shouldn’t discourage them from taking more fiber, says DeSapri. She added that there are a lot of benefits to a diet rich in fiber after the menopause transition.
It is recommended that adding fiber to your diet can make you healthier. Also, fiber intake improves mental health. For a start, you can add a little fiber to your diet and can increase the quantity later.
While most Americans consume less fiber, the recommended daily amount for women is 28 grams. At least 25g a day is still good, DeSapri says.
To increase your fiber intake, try adding a high fiber food such as oatmeal or beans to your diet every day. Also, Include chia seeds in a smoothie or your yogurt and eat fruits regularly.