Is Your Diet Affecting Your Mood?

health and diet

As we head into the holiday season, no doubt many of us are already thinking about our waistlines. Well, if you’re dieting before (or after) the holidays, there’s a new study to keep in mind. It turns out that the type of diet you choose will affect your mood.


We all know that what really puts us in a good mood is losing weight, even if we’re miserable in the process. But new research suggests that even though we can lose weight with both low fat and low carbohydrate diets, some of us may be affected emotionally by the diet we choose.

It turns out that even though either diet (low carb or low fat) initially boosts our mood (probably because we feel good about losing weight), after a couple of weeks that changes for those on a low carb diet. Here’s what the authors of the study have to say about the change in mood for low carb dieters:

“This outcome suggests that some aspects of the low-carbohydrate diet may have had detrimental effects on mood that… negated any positive [mood] effects of weight loss.”

The study allowed its participants the same number of calories, so that they all ended up losing about the same amount of weight — 30 pounds. What became clear by the end of the study, however, was the mood of the participants. Only low fat dieters continued to have an increase in those initial good feelings through the end of the year.

Dr. Keith Ayoob, nutritionist and associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York says it makes sense, phsyically:

“I’m not surprised at all that [dieters] would have a better mood while [still] eating healthy carbs. When a diet is [very] low in carbs, it can start to wear you down.”

He goes on to say that our bodies are accustomed to burning carbohydrates for energy. So changing that so that our body begins to use fat for energy “is basically a starvation adaptation — the way your body evolved to deal with long periods of calorie deprivation. It’s a survival mechanism, not a way to live your daily life.”

But maybe it’s not all physical. Could there be another reason for the irritable low carb dieters?

Dr. Carl Lavie, Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute, says that it’s actually very simple to understand:

“(Dieters) have a very hard time sticking with a low-carbohydrate diet long-term and… become irritable on such a diet. A low fat-diet, on the other hand, is easier to tolerate long-term and does not seem to produce such irritability.”

Well, that sure makes a lot of sense. Ayoob disagrees and reminds us that carbohydrates help produce positive mood chemicals in our brains. So a lack of carbs could cause a drop in those positive mood chemicals, thereby resulting in irritable dieters. While some dieters disagree, they seem to be the aberration from the norm.

At the end of the day, we’ve got to find the diet, or better yet, the lifestyle that best suits our physical and emotional well-being. If we can lose weight either way, let’s find whichever one helps us be a little easier to be around, especially around the holidays!

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