Young adults who eat meat less than three times a week and exercise less may be at an increased risk of mental distress, a study claims.
However, the mental health of a mature adult (aged over 30 years) seems to be more sensitive to regular consumption of coffee and carbohydrates.
Researchers found that mood in young adults (18-29) seem to be dependent on food that increases availability of neurotransmitter precursors and concentrations in the brain (meat).
"Young adult mood appears to be sensitive to build-up of brain chemicals," said Lina Begdache, from the Binghamton University in the US.
"Regular consumption of meat leads to build-up of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood. Regular exercise leads to build-up of these and other neurotransmitters as well," Begdache said.
"In other words, young adults who ate meat (red or white) less than three times a week and exercised less than three times week showed a significant mental distress," she said.
However, mood in mature adults may be more reliant on food that increases availability of antioxidants (fruits) and abstinence of food that inappropriately activates the sympathetic nervous system (coffee, high glycemic index and skipping breakfast).
The findings were published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.
"Mature adult mood seems to be more sensitive to regular consumption of sources of antioxidants and abstinence of food that inappropriately activates the innate fight-or-flight response (commonly known as the stress response)," Begdache added.
"With ageing, there is an increase in free radical formation (oxidants), so our need for antioxidants increases.
Free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, which increases the risk for mental distress," she said.
"Also, our ability to regulate stress decreases, so if we consume food that activates the stress response (such as coffee and too much carbohydrates), we are more likely to experience mental distress," she added.