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Connection between food, body and mind

Scott Teasdale, Wolfgang Marx, Molly Warner, Flavia Fayet-Moore and Skye Marshall


There is growing evidence that diet quality and adequate nutrition could improve mental health. Many factors influence the diets of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Examples include the disruption by colonisation to traditional dietary patterns and food sourcing, and the entrenchment of socioeconomic disadvantage. As a population group, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are consuming a diet of low nutritional quality. This paper reviews the nutrition-focused programs that also measured emotional wellbeing and mental health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It does not consider food security, even though it is an issue in some communities. The preliminary evidence supports nutrition and food-related skills and knowledge as a core component of programs to improve emotional wellbeing. Nutrition programs were more effective when they were culturally appropriate and community endorsed, co-designed with Elders, delivered in a group program to benefit social connections, and included practical workshops based on traditional foods. The effectiveness of individual nutrition interventions, however, is still to be determined and there was limited evidence for the effects of diet and nutrition on suicide and suicidal thoughts.