Mental health is increasingly becoming a challenge in the world, and the lack of treatment availability has led to the search for alternative methods to prevent these problems.  That work has started to demonstrate a link between mental health and nutrition, especially in low- and middle-income countries where undernutrition is prevalent.  DiGiroloamo and colleagues examined the relationship between supplementation of protein and energy during the first 1000 days of life and mental distress among adults.  They report their results in the April 2022 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

The data for their analyses were collected from participants (n=1249) in a longitudinal cohort where protein-energy supplementation occurred in early life (ages 0-7 years) and the outcome data were collected when subjects were 40-57 years of age.  Associations between nutrition in the first 1000 days and mental distress in adulthood were determined after controlling for early-life variables, current life stress, and life course variables (e.g., education).

Both full and partial protein-energy supplementation was associated with reductions in mental distress during adulthood, and the effect did not differ by sex.  The reductions in mental distress resulting from supplementation were relatively unchanged by early-life or life course variables, including stress.  The authors concluded that protein-energy supplementation during the first 1000 days of life in children where undernutrition is prevalent may reduce the incidence of mental distress during adulthood.  Moreover, they suggest the effects are direct, as opposed to occurring indirectly through other variables, such as education, wealth, or marital status.


Ann M DiGirolamo, Jithin Sam Varghese, Maria F Kroker-Lobos, Mónica Mazariegos, Manuel Ramirez-Zea, Reynaldo Martorell, Aryeh D Stein, Protein-Energy Supplementation in Early-Life Decreases the Odds of Mental Distress in Later Adulthood in Guatemala, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 152, Issue 4, April 2022, Pages 1159–1167,

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