Experiences of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) linked to nutritional health

February 03, 2021

A study of factors associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has led to a number of novel findings linking nutrition to experiences of PTSD. Notable among them is the discovery that Canadians, between the ages of 45 and 85, were less likely to exhibit PTSD if they consumed an average of two to three fiber sources daily.

"It is possible that optimal levels of dietary fiber have some type of mental health-related protective effect," says Karen Davison, Director of the Nutrition Informatics Research Group and Health Science Program Faculty Member at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. "This may be due to the communication network that connects the gut and brain via short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are metabolic byproducts of bacterial fermentation made by microbes in the human gut."

"Produced from fermenting fiber in the colon, SCFA molecules can communicate with cells and may affect brain function," Davison says.

Other diet-related factors found to be associated with an increased likelihood of PTSD included daily consumption of pastries, pulses and nuts, or chocolate.

"This finding that increased intakes of pulses and nuts were associated with increased odds of PTSD was unexpected," states Christina Hyland, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto's FIFSW. "However, the measures for these in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging dataset included sources such as peanut butter, and may have also included less healthy variations such as salted or candied nuts."

The study team analyzed data from the baseline Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, which included 27,211 participants aged 45-85 years, of whom 1,323 had PTSD.

Other factors associated with PTSD

The study also found relationships between PTSD and factors such as poverty, gender, age, immigration history, ethnicity, marital status and physical health.

Poverty was strongly associated with PTSD, with one in every seven respondents whose household income was under $20,000 per year experiencing the disorder.

"Unfortunately, we do not know whether PTSD symptoms undermined an individual's ability to work, which resulted in poverty or whether the stress associated with poverty exacerbated PTSD symptoms in respondents," says senior author, Esme Fuller-Thomson, director of the Institute for Life Course & Aging and professor at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW) and Department of Family & Community Medicine.

Women had almost double the prevalence of PTSD in comparison to men (6.9% versus 3.9%). And those who were widowed or divorced were twice as likely to experience the disorder compared to those who were married or living common-law (8.8% versus 4.4%).

When it came to age, the prevalence of PTSD was highest for those 45 to 54 years old (6.4%) and lowest for those aged 75 and older (3.1%).

"This supports previous research, which found that PTSD tends to be most common among men in their early 40s and women in their early 50s," says co-author, Karen Kobayashi, Professor in the Department of Sociology and a Research Fellow at the Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health at the University of Victoria.

The prevalence of PTSD was higher among individuals who had at least two health conditions, who were experiencing chronic pain, or who had a history of smoking.

"This is consistent with results from other studies, which found increased risks of cardiovascular, metabolic, and musculoskeletal conditions among individuals with PTSD," states co-author Meghan West, a Master of Social Work student at the U of T's FIFSW. "These links may be due to alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), sympathetic nervous system inflammation, or health behaviours that increase the risk of poor physical health."

The prevalence of PTSD among visible minority immigrants (7.5%) was more than double that of white immigrants (3.6%) and approximately 50% higher than whites born in Canada (5.6%).

"Our findings underline the importance of considering race and immigration status separately," states co-author Hongmei Tong, Assistant Professor of Social Work at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

"Visible minority immigrants in Canada are largely from South Asia, China, and the Middle East, where groups of individuals have experienced political conflict and/or disruption during the previous 60 years," he says. "Immigrants from these regions are also more likely to have experienced traumatic incidents such as natural disasters and armed conflict, and could be at greater risk of PTSD as a result. As such, there may be a greater need for mental health resources for visible minority immigrants."
The results of this study were published this week in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, an international medical journal that focuses on the epidemiology of psychiatric disorders.

A copy of the paper is available to credentialed journalists upon request

For more please information, please contact:

Karen Davison, Faculty, Health Science Program, Kwantlen Polytechnic University & North American Primary Care Research Group Fellow
Phone: 604-300-0331
Email: karen.davison@kpu.ca

Esme Fuller-Thomson, Professor & Director, Institute of Life Course & Aging
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work & Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto
Cell: 416-209-3231
Email: esme.fuller.thomson@utoronto.ca

University of Toronto

Related Stress Articles from Brightsurf:

Stress-free gel
Researchers at The University of Tokyo studied a new mechanism of gelation using colloidal particles.

Early life stress is associated with youth-onset depression for some types of stress but not others
Examining the association between eight different types of early life stress (ELS) and youth-onset depression, a study in JAACAP, published by Elsevier, reports that individuals exposed to ELS were more likely to develop a major depressive disorder (MDD) in childhood or adolescence than individuals who had not been exposed to ELS.

Red light for stress
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have created a biphasic luminescent material that changes color when exposed to mechanical stress.

How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS

How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.

Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.

Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.

Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.

Read More: Stress News and Stress Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.