Food and Behaviour Research

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Principal component analysis identifies differential gender-specific dietary patterns that may be linked to mental distress in human adults

Begdache L, Kianmehr H, Sabounchi N, Chaar M, Marhaba J (2018) Nutr Neurosci.  2018 Jul 20: 1-14. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2018.1500198. [Epub ahead of print] 

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Independent reports describe the structural differences between the human male and female brains and the differential gender-susceptibility to mood disorders. Nutrition is one of the modifiable risk factors that has been reported to impact brain chemistry and affect mental health.


To study dietary patterns in adult men and women in relation to mental distress. Another aim was to develop evidence-based prototypes using System Dynamic Modeling methodology to better describe our findings.


An anonymous internet-based survey was sent through social media platforms to different social and professional networks. Multivariate analyses were used for data mining. Data were stratified by gender and further by tertiles to capture the latent variables within the patterns of interest.


Mental distress in men associated with a consumption of a Western-like diet. In women, mental wellbeing associated with a Mediterranean-like diet and lifestyle. No other patterns in both genders were linked to mental distress. Based on the generated prototypes, men are more likely to experience mental wellbeing until nutritional deficiencies arise. However, women are less likely to experience mental wellbeing until a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are followed. In men, dietary deficiencies may have a profound effect on the limbic system; whereas dietary sufficiency in women may potentiate the mesocortical regulation of the limbic system.


Our results may explain the several reports in the literature that women are at a greater risk for mental distress when compared to men and emphasize the role of a nutrient-dense diet in mental wellbeing.


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