A new analysis of data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) finds statistical associations between various health factors and PTSD.

According to the authors of the new study, which appears in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, the research does not establish that these factors actually cause PTSD, and the reverse may be true. However, their identification may nonetheless inform further research.

In some cases, the authors posit that underlying physiological mechanisms may be at play.

Nutritional health and PTSD

The CLSA is a large, long-term study of the Canadian population that has been ongoing for more than 20 years. The researchers behind the new study examined the data for 27,211 individuals aged 45–85 years. Of these people, 1,323 had PTSD.

The study found that people who eat two or three sources of fiber per day are less likely to experience episodes of PTSD than those eating less fiber.

Lead author Karen Davison, director of the Nutrition Informatics Research Group and health science program faculty member at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia, suggests a reason for this finding: “It is possible that optimal levels of dietary fiber have some type of mental health-related protective effect.”

Davison says that this may have to do with short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which originate in the gut. “SCFA molecules can communicate with cells and may affect brain function,” she explains.

The researchers also linked the consumption of other foods to a higher incidence of PTSD. These foods included chocolate, pastries, nuts, and pulses.

Co-author Christina Hyland, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto (U of T), calls the finding unexpected.

She cautions, however, that the inclusion of nuts on the list may reflect the inclusion of peanut butter, but not more healthful nut options, among the food choices in the CLSA.

Medical reference: Medical News Today