Open Access Open Badges Research

Food and nutrient intake in relation to mental wellbeing

Reeta Hakkarainen1*, Timo Partonen1, Jari Haukka1, Jarmo Virtamo2, Demetrius Albanes3 and Jouko Lönnqvist1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Mental Health and Alcohol Research, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland

2 Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland

3 Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2004, 3:14  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-3-14

Published: 13 September 2004



We studied food consumption and nutrient intake in subjects with depressed mood, anxiety and insomnia as indices of compromised mental wellbeing.


The study population consisted of 29,133 male smokers aged 50 to 69 years who entered the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study in 1985–1988. This was a placebo-controlled trial to test whether supplementation with alpha-tocopherol or beta-carotene prevents lung cancer. At baseline 27,111 men completed a diet history questionnaire from which food and alcohol consumption and nutrient intake were calculated. The questionnaire on background and medical history included three symptoms on mental wellbeing, anxiety, depression and insomnia experienced in the past four months.


Energy intake was higher in men who reported anxiety or depressed mood, and those reporting any such symptoms consumed more alcohol. Subjects reporting anxiety or depressed mood had higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.


Our findings conflict with the previous reports of beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on mood.

anxiety; depression; food; insomnia; nutrition