Mental Health Research

‘The Association Between Dairy Consumption and Mood and Cognition’

Deakin University, VIC
Awarded 2019

“I found there was a lack of evidence and information available to provide nutrition advice to patients with mental illness.”

Researcher Profile

Meghan is a PhD candidate with the Food and Mood Centre, Deakin University. She is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and completed her Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics (Honours) at Monash University. Prior to commencing her PhD, Meghan practised as a clinical dietitian and interned for various research projects, including the landmark SMILES trial. Her research interests focus on the role of nutrition in depression, anxiety and cognition, with a particular focus on dairy consumption.

Meghan is passionate about public health and making research accessible to the broader community, and has presented on topic on multiple occasions to schools and the general public.

Project Summary

Depression, anxiety and cognitive disorders are leading public health challenges that impose significant burden on Australian’s. Adjunctive to conventional therapies, a substantial body of evidence supports that improved diet quality may assist in the prevention and treatment of these disorders. However, the field of Nutritional Psychiatry is still in its infancy and the potential impact of dietary constituents on mental health is largely unknown.

Although a core food group within many traditional diets, little attention has been paid to the role of dairy consumption in mental health. At present, evidence regarding the health effects of dairy is equivocal and the possible impact of A2 and conventional dairy products on depression, anxiety and cognition is uncertain.

Therefore, this PhD project will:
1. Determine whether an association exists between dairy consumption and symptoms of depression and anxiety by conducting a systematic literature review;
2. Investigate possible differential effects of A2 versus conventional dairy products on symptoms of depression and anxiety, and cognitive function, by conducting a 16-week randomised controlled trial in women with low mood.
3. Examine associations between habitual dairy consumption (e.g. milk, yoghurt and cheese) and symptoms of depression and anxiety using baseline data from clinical trial participants.

This project will provide important data to inform the design of future dietary interventions aimed at improving mood and cognitive related outcomes. In doing so, this research may have substantial ramifications for public health, given the regular consumption of dairy products and the extensive burden of illness of depressive, anxiety and cognitive disorders within the Australian population.

Supervisors: Professor Felice Jacka, Dr Anu Ruusunen, Dr Helen MacPherson  & Dr Tetyana Rocks