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Mental Health, Nutritional Status, and Physical Activity: A Complex Interplay

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Although the specific etiological mechanisms have not been fully delineated, it is well recognized that mental function can be adversely affected by poor dietary choices. As shown in Figure 28–1, the interrelationships among diet and physical activity, mental health, and physical health are critical determinants of health and quality of life among older adults. A problem in any one component can lead to deterioration in other components and in overall health. For example, as shown in Figure 28–2, excess kilocalorie intake may lead to obesity and related physical impairments that may in turn promote depression.

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FIGURE 28–2. Example of a cascading problem.Excess food intake can lead to overweight and obesity that in turn can lead to physical impairment (e.g., mobility problems). Physical impairment may then promote psychiatric symptoms and even depression. To exacerbate the cycle, depression itself may lead to detrimental changes in dietary intake and physical fitness.

FIGURE 28–3. A dietary mechanism for late-life depression.Diet may promote (or prevent) depression by influencing one's risk of vascular diseases, including atherosclerosis and diabetes. These vascular diseases are known to promote late-life depression. In addition, diet may directly promote (or prevent) depression by altering neuronal health or neurotransmitter levels. Potential moderators of both pathways include ischemic brain lesions and inflammation.

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