Seasonal Affective Disorder and Food Consumption Pattern

In my last blog I had touched on some connections between specific nutrients and how that can affect mood disorders, like seasonal affective disorders (SAD). What a person eats can affect not just the individual, but it has the potential to expand to an entire society.

For example, The trend surrounding the lack of omega-3 consumption and rates of illness can be seen occurring internationally. The relevance of polyunsaturated fatty acids for their effects on mental disorders has been emphasized through national epidemiological studies. Noaghiul and Hibbeln (2003) conducted an epidemiological study examining the relationship of lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder in various countries to differing rates of seafood consumption. The Cross-National Collaborative Group epidemiological study of ten countries, and other studies identified through MEDLINE and Psychinfo were analyzed for rates of bipolar disorder. National seafood consumption rates were obtained from National Marine Fisheries Service and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

The results showed that higher national seafood consumption predicted lower prevalence rates of bipolar spectrum disorder, bipolar I disorder, and bipolar II disorder. The greatest rise in prevalence rates for bipolar disorder generally occurs in countries having a seafood consumption of less than 50 lb. per person annually. These results assume that an insufficient dietary intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids increases the risk of mood disorders, such as SAD (Noaghiul and Hibbeln 2003).

Dietary practices taken in relation to schizophrenia and depression were assessed by Peet (2004). He rationalized that physical illness, particularly diabetes and coronary heart disease, was occurring with increased frequency in patients with major mental illness, such as schizophrenia and depression. Therefore, he performed an ecological analysis of international variations of food supply in relation to epidemiological data on the outcome of schizophrenia and on the prevalence of depression. 

A robust relationship was found between the high dietary consumption of seafood and reduced prevalence of depression, and less strongly with the intake of starchy roots. The seafood consumption provided the strongest predictor of the prevalence of depression. The data indicated that greater consumption of refined sugar was associated with a worse outcome of schizophrenia and a greater prevalence of depression. Thus, the study determined that dietary patterns that influence insulin resistance and result in diseases associated with metabolic disturbances are reflected by the dietary patterns of those with the mental illness (Peet 2004).

These results suggest a wide potential for using omega-3 fatty acids either adjunctively or independently in treatment approaches to various mental illnesses. It also appears that the increase in mental disorders reflects the changes in international food consumption habits. Thus, the importance of a diet containing all essential antioxidants and fatty acids, such as the Mediterranean diet, is essential to consider when planning treatment for mental disorders.

Food plays a key role in the overall maintenance of mental and physical health. Unfortunately, the Mediterranean diet has been replaced in many countries with a processed, less healthy diet containing saturated fats and refined sugars. This has resulted in a risk of imbalance of omega polyunsaturated fatty acids, with a vitamin and mineral deficiencies (Garcia-Toro M et al, 2010).

Here are some Mediterranean diet based recipes to benefit with seasonal affective disorder:

Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup
· 1 large butternut squash
· 2 c low sodium chicken broth
· 2 T chopped parsley
· 1/4 t. white pepper
· 1 T dried marjoram
· 1.5 c skim milk
· 2 T molasses
· 1/4 t cinnamon
· nutmeg, salt, pepper

Preparation time: 30 min, start to table: 1 hour

Cut squash into sections, remove seeds and peel. Place in glass dish, add 1 inch water
and cover. Microwave on high till flesh is soft and mushy (or for oven roasting, baking sheets and place in oven at 425 F for 40-45min or until tender).
In heavy saucepan, combine squash, stock, parsley, pepper and marjoram. Cool or proceed carefully.
Puree soup, then return to pan. Add milk, molasses, and remaining spices. Bring to a boil then reduce heat just until heated through. Makes 6 c or three 2 c servings of 320 cal each.

Recipe: Eggplant Sauce

· 6 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
· 1eggplant
· 1/4 c. olive oil
· 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
· 2 sm. red or green peppers, diced
· 1/4 c. water
· 2 T capers (to limit sodium, eliminate the capers and olives and add mushrooms)
· 1/4 c dry basil (or 1 c fresh)
· crushed red pepper (if desired)
· 10 pitted olives, drained
· salt
Preparation time 15 min, start to table 40 min
Cut eggplant into 1 inch cubes (peel and seed if desired). In large heavy pan heat oil and
cook eggplant and garlic for one minute, stirring constantly. Turn heat to low and add
water. Cover and cook 6-8 minutes, until eggplant is tender. Add tomatoes and the
remainder of the ingredients. Boil, uncovered, until sauce thickens, 15-20 minutes. 4
servings of 200 calories each.
(, 2009)

Oatmeal Cookies:

1-1/2 cups ground oatmeal
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
2 large Eggs (or ¼ cup ground flax seed with 6Tbsp water and let it sit for 10min)
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 cup Raw Sugar
1 cup Coconut oil (softened)
3 cups Rolled Oats
1 cup raisins (unsulfured)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat coconut oil and sugars together until smooth. Add vanilla and eggs (or ground flax and water mixture); beat well. In a separate bowl, blend ground oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and Xanthan Gum. Stir flour blend into wet ingredients. Add rolled oats and raisins and mix well. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto un-greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool one minutes then transfer to wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
(adapted from Bob’s Red Mill)


Garcia-Toro M, Ibarra O, Gili M, Salva J, Monzón S, Vives M, Serrano MJ, Garcia-Campayo J and Roca M (2010). Effectiveness of hygienic-dietary recommendations as enhancers of antidepressant treatment in patients with Depression: Study protocol of a randomized controlled trial. BMC Public Health 2010, 10:404 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-404

Peet M. Essential fatty acids: theoretical aspects and treatment implications for schizophrenia and depression. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2002;8:223-229.

Peet M. International variations in the outcome of schizophrenia and the prevalence of depression in relation to national dietary practices: an ecological analysis. Br J Psychiatry. 2004;184:404-408.

Peet M, Brind J, Ramchand CN, Shah S, Vankar GK. Two double-blind placebo-controlled studies of eicosapentaenoic acid in the treatment of schizophrenia. Schizophr Res. 2001;49:243-251.
Peet M, Horrobin DF. A dose-ranging study of the effects of ethyl-eicosapentaenoate in patients with ongoing depression despite apparently adequate treatment with standard drugs. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59:913-919.

National Board for the Preservation of the Italian Healthy Eating Traditions. The Definitive Guide to the Mediterranean Diet. 2009.

Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookies,

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