Food, mood and health: A neurobiologic outlook
Hippocrates was the first to suggest the healing power of food; however, it was not until the medieval ages that food was considered a tool to modify temperament and mood, although scientific methods as we know them today were not in use at the time. Modern scientific methods in neuroscience began to emerge much later, leading investigators to examine the role of diet in health, including mental well-being, with greater precision. This review shows how short- and long-term forced dietary interventions bring about changes in brain structure, chemistry, and physiology, leading to altered animal behavior. Examples will be presented to show how diets alter brain chemistry, behavior, and the action of neuroactive drugs. Most humans and most animal species examined in a controlled setting exhibit a fairly reproducible pattern of what and how they eat. Recent data suggest that these patterns may be under the neurochemical and hormonal control of the organisms themselves. Other data show that in many instances food may be used unconsciously to regulate mood by seemingly normal subjects as well as those undergoing drug withdrawal or experiencing seasonal affective disorders and obesity-related social withdrawal. We will discuss specific examples that illustrate that manipulation of dietary preference is actually an attempt to correct neurochemical make-up.