(Health Secrets) Want to improve your mood and lose weight too? A low-fat diet appears to help dieters’ moods more than a low-carbohydrate diet even if both diets have the same number of calories. This was the finding of a team of scientists in South Australia who studied the long-term effects of a very low carbohydrate diet and a very low-fat diet on mood and cognitive function. While recent clinical studies have shown that low-carbohydrate diets can be an effective dietary approach for weight loss, their long-term effects on psychological function, including mood and cognition, have been poorly studied.
Study participants were divided into two group, one to receive a low carbohydrate diet and the other to receive a low fat diet. Changes in body weight, mood, feelings of well-being, and cognitive functioning (thinking, learning and memory skills) were evaluated frequently during and following the one-year study.
To assess mood, researchers used scores from the Profile of Mood States, Beck Depression Inventory, and Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory. Cognitive functioning was assessed by testing working memory and speed of processing.
The overall average weight loss after one year was about 30.2 pounds with no difference between the two groups. After the first eight weeks, both groups initially experienced an improvement in mood. However, a lasting improvement in mood was seen only in those following the low-fat diet. Those on the high-fat diet returned to their original mood levels.
“This outcome suggests that some aspects of the low-carbohydrate diet may have had detrimental effects on mood that, over the term of one year, negated any positive effects of weight loss,” the authors write.
Possible explanations for this outcome include the cultural difficulty of sticking to a low-carbohydrate diet, a diet that runs counter to the typical Western diet which is full of bread and pasta. Also, the factor of the prescribed and very structured nature of the diet may be to blame. Another possible explanation may be the effects of protein and fat intake on brain levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter related to psychological functioning.
Both groups reported similar changes in thinking and memory performance over the year, which meant that there was no evidence of either diet being associated with changes in cognitive function.
The researchers also noted that obese individuals who lose weight tend to have an improved psychological state in general, including a better mood.
If you are unwilling to give up healthy dietary fat to improve your mood, supplements of 5-HTP may still provide you with long term mood improvement. 5-HTP is naturally produced by the body, which uses it to regulate serotonin levels in the brain and central nervous system. Medical journals have documented through the years that 5-HTP helps lift mood and promotes a good night’s sleep.
A low level of 5-HTP was found to be strongly associated with the mood symptoms of PMS in a study in Sweden in 2006. Researchers tested the association between premenstrual decline in brain serotonin function and worsening of mood symptoms during the follicular and premenstrual phases of the menstrual cycle.
An older double blind study showed a drop in depression of close to 50 percent in unipolar and bipolar patients taking 5-HTP. The dosage used was 200 mg. Another older study documented the effectiveness of 5-HTP in promoting weight loss. This study showed a loss of fourteen pounds in twelve weeks when all else remained constant except for the addition of 5-HTP. It has also been documented to lower blood pressure by six percent.