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Jack Scanlan

The Impact of Diet on Paediatric Depression ​Student ID: 2198052

Introduction

The areas of medicine and clinical practices are of significant interest to me, thus I have been
considering the specialisation I may wish to complete following formal education. Since choosing to
become a Paediatrician due to positive experiences I have had within the health care system, I have
found mental health to be a poignant issue due to the high prevalence of depression. While medicinal
interventions are common, little research on the impact of poor diet during childhood has been
conducted. The following articles will explore the effect of vitamins and broader dietary intake can
correlate to a reduction in depressive symptomatology.

Hayward, J., Jacka, F. N., Skouteris, H., Millar, L., Strugnell, C., Swinburn, B. A. & Allender, S.
(2016). Lifestyle factors and adolescent depressive symptomatology: Associations and effect
sizes of diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour. ​Australian & New Zealand Journal of
Psychiatry​, 50(11). 1064-1073. doi:10.1177/0004867416671596
This article explores the correlations between diet, physical activity and depressive symptomatology
in adolescents. The authors distributed self-reporting questionnaires and Likert scales relating to
dietary intake and symptoms of depression to over 3000 participants in years 8-10, producing
quantitative data. The authors conclude that while a diet with increased vegetable consumption and
decreased amounts of caffeine and artificially sweetened products is associated with decreased
depressive symptomatology for most males, only females with significant depressive symptoms were
positively impacted. Co-authored by an Associate Research Fellow of Deakin University’s School of
Health and Social Development and produced in collaboration with the Australian National Health and
Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the findings support strong conclusions and are considered
reliable by the United States’ National Institutes of Health. The intended audience is psychiatrists and
paediatricians due to the use of medical terminology, however, there are possible uses for educators
in health promotion and risk management. A strength of the research was the recruitment process
and large sample size, as three schools within each community were invited to participate. Additional
schools were invited should none accept, which omits the presence researcher biases. A significant
limitation to this article are the self-reporting questionnaires, of which the authors state, “​Self-report
can be subject to respondent bias and recall errors”. t​his was counteracted by a large sample size of
over 3000 students, however, further research is needed to confirm findings. This article provides

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Jack Scanlan
The Impact of Diet on Paediatric Depression ​Student ID: 2198052

insight into the impact of diet on depressive symptomatology and will be useful in assisting further
developments in my future profession of paediatrics.

Herbison, C. E., Hickling, S., Allen, K. L., O'Sullivan, T. A., Robinson, M., Bremner, A.P., …
Od​dy, W. H. (2012). Low intake of B-vitamins is associated with poor adolescent mental health
and behaviour. ​Preventive Medicine,​ 55(6), 634-638. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.09.014
Herbison et al. explore the correlation between the consumption of B-complex vitamins and the
improved mental health of adolescents over a 17-year period from birth. Using the food frequency
questionnaire produced by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
(CSIRO), participants record dietary habits over the previous 12 months. The authors employed
self-reporting questionnaires to explore internalising (withdrawal, anxiety & depression) and
externalising (aggressive & delinquent) behaviours. It was concluded that higher consumption of
vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6 were associated with lower externalised behaviour, whilst B6 and
folate lowered internalising behaviours. The lowest symptomatology was seen in offspring of
highly-educated, wealthy mothers- often of higher maternal age. The authors used terminology
directed at health practitioners, alluding to a target audience of paediatricians and dieticians.
Statistical analysis supports a strong conclusion as covariates such as physical activity, family
functioning and intake of alcohol were accounted for. Conversely, randomised trials were forgone for
the use of self-reporting scales, a significant limitation for a study of this size. Although the CSIRO’s
food frequency questionnaire is validated by the NHMRC and Australian Heart Foundation,
B-vitamin-dense foods are more likely to contain other nutrients which may have caused positive
effects on participants’ self-reporting scales. Furthermore, the authors suggested individual
B-vitamins naturally occur together so results are to be grouped for increased accuracy. Although the
study provided strong evidence for the positive impacts of B-vitamins in adolescent mental health,
controlled trials must be conducted to strengthen the causation between B-vitamin intake and
depressive symptomatology. For this reason, the article will not be of use in a clinical setting, however
may form the basis of my further research in into the fields of psychiatry and paediatrics.

Jacka, F. N., Kremer, P. J., Leslie, E. R., Berk, M., Patton, C. P., Toumbourou, J. W., Williams, J.
W. (2016). Associations Between Diet Quality and Depressed Mood in Adolescents: Results
from the Australian Healthy Neighbourhoods Study. ​Australian & New Zealand Journal of
Psychiatr​y, 44(5), 435 - 442. doi: 10.3109/00048670903571598

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Jack Scanlan
The Impact of Diet on Paediatric Depression ​Student ID: 2198052

This article investigates whether increased diet quality can reduce the prevalence of ‘depressed
moods’ in teenagers. Using data from 8000 participants aged 10–14 years from the NHMRC
Australian Healthy Neighbourhoods ​study, their physical and psychological well-being was measured
using quantitative questionnaires for both diet and depressive symptomatology. These self-reporting
measures were used in a number of articles spanning many disciplines, therefore a reliable indicator
of the article’s strength. An association between diet quality and depressive symptomatology was
confirmed, with the former a better indicator of mental health than socioeconomic status, physical
activity and smoking status. The article is targeted at psychiatrists and dieticians who may use dietary
modification as a preventative measure or treatment. While self-report questionnaires themselves
limit reliability, the included 14 questions regarding the consumption frequency of sweetened foods
and beverages cannot accurately reflect the holistic diet of adolescents. Furthermore, vitamins, fish oil
and whole-grains are important nutrients to prevent depressive symptoms and are not included. In
contrast, participants of the ​Australian Healthy Neighbourhoods study were used to improve liability
due to the large sample size of 8000 participants. Moreover, the authors were diligent to include
extensive statistical analysis to eliminate covariates such as parents’ education, BMI and
socioeconomic status. While Jacka et al. provide evidence to support the link between increased diet
quality and improved mood in adolescents using a large sample size, randomised controlled trials to
confirm the causation are needed before I will use the information in a clinical setting.

Conclusion
These articles explore the impacts of dietary intake on depressive symptomatology in adolescents,
describing the effectiveness of increased vitamin consumption, reduced processed foods and lower
amounts of caffeinated beverages. Furthermore, these were explored as both preventative measures
and treatment for acute depression. The authors indicate that they support the hypothesis that an
improved diet during adolescence contributes to lower prevalence of depression, however express
the need for randomised trials in controlled settings to show causation. While these articles may not
be used in clinical practice immediately, they are of benefit to the field of paediatrics and psychiatry.

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Jack Scanlan
The Impact of Diet on Paediatric Depression ​Student ID: 2198052

Reflection on academic skills


Due to the prevalence of Harvard referencing in secondary school, I needed to learn American
Psychological Association referencing for this task. This was a challenge, however, I used the
Flinders Referencing Guides to memorise this. In subsequent tasks, I will seek assistance from my
topic tutor if further challenges are presented.

Strengths and weaknesses

Intended audience

Broader audience

Quality (peer reviewed; latest year)

Research methods (quantitative; qualitative)

Link to future profession/research topic