18-30 is a life stage full of transition and change, characterised by the independence and autonomy which comes with being an emerging adult. The brain continues to develop until the mid or even late twenties, particularly the areas of the brain responsible for reasoning and decision making, as well as emotional regulation.
Risk Factors during 18-30’s
Most mental health conditions emerge and are diagnosed during late adolescence. Depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are the most common mental illnesses identified during late adolescence. 75% of all diagnosis of mental illnesses occurs by age 24. During early adulthood, as well as anxiety and depression remaining prevalent, personality disorders may also be diagnosed. It should be noted here the strong link between personality disorder development, and child abuse. Early intervention in the form of psychological support is crucial, and NICE states that 50% of patients who receive such support for one of the most common personality disorders, BPD, no longer fit the criteria of the condition within 5-10 years post diagnosis.
Individuals with an increased susceptibility to developing mental illnesses include those experiencing:
Important nutritional considerations for the 18-30’s life stage will be discussed in this section.
The group of 8 water soluble B vitamins are vital to brain health, they have been found to have an effect on multiple aspects of brain function and strongly correlated to mental health . Multiple B vitamins play a role in pathways linked to depression through glutamate and GABA systems, as well as serotonin and dopamine mechanisms. Folate and B12 are needed for the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, neurotransmitters in the brain help to regulate the body’s stress response and also mood.
Omega 3 supports brain health, via increasing brain cell production and communication, and reducing inflammation. Omega 3 also modulates, GABA, serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation, due to increasing beneficial bacteria strains in the gut, which synthesise these neurotransmitters.
Fibre and Probiotics
Recent research has highlighted a link between the gut microbiome and the brain. Higher intakes of fibre and probiotics have been shown to regulate the gut microbiota and improve brain health. The gut and brain are linked through the central nervous system as well as by chemicals produced by the gut, called neurotransmitters, impact brain health through regulating mood and mental wellbeing. The gut has been shown to produce neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, that have a direct impact on mood. The gut can also produce gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which can help modulate fear and anxiety. Research into the gut and brain highlight the key role of a healthy gut in optimising brain health, nutrients such as probiotics and prebiotics help to produce good gut flora that promote chemical release to the brain .
Zinc, Magnesium & Iron
Zinc, magnesium and iron work together synergistically in the brain to reduce oxidative stress. This may help to reduce inflammation, an important consideration for supporting healthy brain ageing and also mental wellbeing, as many chronic diseases and mental illnesses include inflammation as a key feature in their development.
Researcher: Ellie Winch, MSc Global Public Health Nutrition (University of Westminster), BSc Nutrition (Bournemouth University).
Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M.A. and Severi, C., 2015. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology: quarterly publication of the Hellenic Society of Gastroenterology, 28(2), p.203.
Cepeda, M.S., Katz, E.G. and Blacketer, C., 2017. Microbiome-gut-brain axis: probiotics and their association with depression. The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 29(1), pp.39-44.
Chapman, T.W. and Hill, R.A., 2020. Myelin plasticity in adulthood and aging. Neuroscience letters, 715, p.134645.
Chen, F., Bertelsen, A.B., Holm, I.E., Nyengaard, J.R., Rosenberg, R. and Dorph-Petersen, K.A., 2020. Hippocampal volume and cell number in depression, schizophrenia, and suicide subjects. Brain research, 1727, p.146546.
Davison, K.M. and Kaplan, B.J., 2012. Nutrient intakes are correlated with overall psychiatric functioning in adults with mood disorders. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57(2), pp.85-92.
Firth J, Gangwisch J E, Borsini A, Wootton R E, Mayer E A. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? BMJ 2020; 369 :m2382 doi:10.1136/bmj.m2382
Foster, J.A. and Neufeld, K.A.M., 2013. Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in neurosciences, 36(5), pp.305-312.
Gibson-Smith, D., Bot, M., Brouwer, I.A., Visser, M. and Penninx, B.W., 2018. Diet quality in persons with and without depressive and anxiety disorders. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 106, pp.1-7.
Grosso G, Galvano F, Marventano S, Malaguarnera M, Bucolo C, Drago F, Caraci F Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014; 2014():313570.
Hills R.D., Jr., Pontefract B.A., Mishcon H.R., Black C.A., Sutton S.C., Theberge C.R. Gut microbiome: Profound implications for diet and disease. Nutrients. 2019;11 doi: 10.3390/nu11071613.
Jurewicz I. (2015). Mental health in young adults and adolescents – supporting general physicians to provide holistic care. Clinical medicine (London, England), 15(2), 151–154. https://doi.org/10.7861/clinmedicine.15-2-151
Lange, K.W., 2020. Omega-3 fatty acids and mental health. Global Health Journal, 4(1), pp.18-30.
Larsen, S.V., Köhler‐Forsberg, K., Dam, V.H., Poulsen, A.S., Svarer, C., Jensen, P.S., Knudsen, G.M., Fisher, P.M., Ozenne, B. and Frokjaer, V.G., 2020. Oral contraceptives and the serotonin 4 receptor: a molecular brain imaging study in healthy women. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 142(4), pp.294-306.
Lebel, C. and Deoni, S., 2018. The development of brain white matter microstructure. Neuroimage, 182, pp.207-218.
Mekonen, T., Fekadu, W., Chane, T., & Bitew, S. (2017). Problematic Alcohol Use among University Students. Frontiers in psychiatry, 8, 86. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00086
Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L. and Apostolopoulos, V., 2016. The effects of vitamin B in depression. Current medicinal chemistry, 23(38), pp.4317-4337.
Mills, K.L., Siegmund, K.D., Tamnes, C.K., Ferschmann, L., Bos, M.G., Wierenga, L.M., Luna, B. and Herting, M.L., 2021. Individual variability in structural brain development from late childhood to young adulthood. bioRxiv.
Mörkl, S., Butler, M.I., Holl, A., Cryan, J.F. and Dinan, T.G., 2020. Probiotics and the microbiota-gut-brain axis: focus on psychiatry. Current nutrition reports, 9(3), pp.171-182.
Sartorius T, Ketterer C, Kullmann S, Balzer M, Rotermund C, Binder S, Hallschmid M, Machann J, Schick F, Somoza V, Preissl H, Fritsche A, Häring HU, Hennige AM Diabetes. 2012 Jul; 61(7):1669-79
Schmaal, L., Hibar, D.P., Sämann, P.G., Hall, G.B., Baune, B.T., Jahanshad, N., Cheung, J.W., Van Erp, T.G.M., Bos, D., Ikram, M.A. and Vernooij, M.W., 2017. Cortical abnormalities in adults and adolescents with major depression based on brain scans from 20 cohorts worldwide in the ENIGMA Major Depressive Disorder Working Group. Molecular psychiatry, 22(6), pp.900-909.
Sellgren, C.M., Gracias, J., Watmuff, B. et al. Increased synapse elimination by microglia in schizophrenia patient-derived models of synaptic pruning. Nat Neurosci 22, 374–385 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-018-0334-7
Skovlund, C.W., Mørch, L.S., Kessing, L.V. and Lidegaard, Ø., 2016. Association of hormonal contraception with depression. JAMA psychiatry, 73(11), pp.1154-1162.
Solmi, M., Radua, J., Olivola, M. et al. Age at onset of mental disorders worldwide: large-scale meta-analysis of 192 epidemiological studies. Mol Psychiatry (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41380-021-01161-7
Sprake, E.F., Russell, J.M., Cecil, J.E., Cooper, R.J., Grabowski, P., Pourshahidi, L.K. and Barker, M.E., 2018. Dietary patterns of university students in the UK: a cross-sectional study. Nutrition journal, 17(1), pp.1-17.
Topiwala, A., Allan, C.L., Valkanova, V., Zsoldos, E., Filippini, N., Sexton, C., Mahmood, A., Fooks, P., Singh-Manoux, A., Mackay, C.E. and Kivimäki, M., 2017. Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study. bmj, 357.
Zeng Y., Yang J., Du J., Pu X., Yang X., Yang S., Yang T. Strategies of functional foods promote sleep in human being. Curr. Signal Transduct. Ther. 2014;9:148–155.