Research into the correlation between diet and mental health in young adults was presented by Lecturer in Nutrition Dr Claire Macdonald-Clarke, at the Federation of European Nutritional Societies (FENS) Conference 2019.
Dr Macdonald-Clarke showcased findings from a Collaborative Investigation into the Nutritional Status of Young Adults (CINSYA) project, which many colleagues and students from the Nutrition department have been involved with over a number of years. The current diet and mental health project was carried out in partnership with Nutrition graduate Hannah Wilson, as part of her undergraduate research project.
The study found associations between higher levels of poor mental health (stress, anxiety and depression) and high body fat, high fasting blood glucose and poor diet quality, including lower protein and high sugar.
Dr Macdonald-Clarke said: “Young adult health is attracting an increasing amount of attention, particularly due to mental health concerns. We know that young adulthood and the transition into university can be a pivotal moment in life where people set down eating and physical activity habits, which may stay with them throughout adulthood. Small changes in healthful behaviours in this critical window of young adulthood could have significant consequences for health throughout life.
“The work of the CINSYA project provided direction for our current CONTINUUM study where we are investigating nutrition, physical activity and health during university longitudinally. In the CONTINUUM project, we are aiming to determine if there are particular times in the academic year where health promotion or interventions might be most beneficial for example during exam periods or during the transition into university in the first year. This work also provides a scientific basis for our impact case study testing methods of improving health of young adults through health monitoring, health promotion and health interventions.
“We are working alongside the catering department to analyse the nutritional content of foods served at Liverpool Hope University, so customers can make an informed choice, and we plan to run some focused workshops with catering staff. We previously ran basic cookery sessions for students, with the help of financial support and guidance from the Let's Get Cooking programme and will soon be advertising these sessions again for this academic year. We also recently purchased an easy to use self-service blood pressure monitor, which we demonstrated at the recent Freshers’ Fair. This will soon be available for all staff and students to use so they can monitor their own health.
"I'm very grateful to have been given the opportunity to present and chair a session at this prestigious conference, which only takes place every four years. The conference was inspiring and jam-packed with sessions delivered by world-renowned academics in nutrition and public health. It was great to network with old and new colleagues and collaborators, and discuss research ideas. This opportunity will allow me to ensure that I'm delivering up-to-date and research-informed teaching to our students."