Dr. Felice Jacka: The Power of Diet on Mental Health


“Half of all mental disorders start before the age of 14, you want to get in and prevent them before they start and that means making sure that kids are getting the right nutrition and physical activity and obviously when they get into adolescence, not smoking.” Dr. Felice Jacka

Dr. Felice Jacka – Director of the Food and Mood Center

Welcome to episode #6 of the Imperfect Progress Podcast. I’m so excited to share this important conversation!

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Dr. Felice Jacka, Director of The Food and Mood Center and founder and president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research has dedicated her career researching nutritional psychiatry as well creating programs to mobilize change in our food environment. One of her many goals is to teach the role that lifestyle medicine can play in preventing mental health disorders and protecting the brain. With a strong statistics background Dr. Jacka understands how important the role of quality research; intervention studies and meta analysis; will be in influencing change in the clinical practice setting. She led one of the first studies ever looking at dietary intervention and depressive symptoms, the SMILES trial.

We dig into the SMILES trial which investigated “if I improve my diet will my mood improve?” and compared a dietary intervention versus a social support group and the effects on depressive symptoms. Dr. Felice Jacka was the lead author on the paper, where participants in the diet group consumed a modified Mediterranean Diet. We discuss the results and other interesting findings from the trial related to reduced food costs and healthcare expenses between the groups in the trial. You’ll want to hear this!

“What gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me doing this with such passion and zeal is the need to address the food environment and the fury I feel that big business has been allowed to sacrifice the health of the people and the planet right across the globe in the pursuit of profits, unimpeded” Dr. Felice Jacka

In our discussion we cover so many interesting areas:

  • Treatment guidelines for mental health disorders: early focus lifestyle medicine
  • Nutrition education for physicians
  • Gut microbiota and its relationship to our mental health.
  • Fiber and short chain fatty acids – why the variety of foods in your diet matters
  • Setting up a healthy food environment for your kids to start healthy eating habits early in life
  • The SMILES trial: A Randomized controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression: results and insights
  • Obesity: changing our stereotypes about weight and mental health disorders
  • The food environment and food policy
  • Dealing with adversity and imperfect progress in life – so much wisdom here from an incredibly strong and resilient woman.

There’s still so much to learn about nutrition and mental health disorders. I’m very grateful for Dr. Felice Jacka’s time discussing this incredibly important topic today.

Thank you so much for listening to Imperfect Progress. Please share this episode with anyone you believe can benefit and subscribe on your favorite platform for future episodes. Please leave a review on the podcast, this will help bring awareness to the podcast and allow more listeners to learn from experts like Dr. Felice Jacka.

To connect with and learn more about Dr. Felice Jacka’s work, see the links below:

Food and Mood Center: https://foodandmoodcentre.com.au/

SMILES TRIAL: https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-017-0791-y

Brain Changer (Book): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42653041-brain-changer

There’s a Zoo In My Poo (Kids Book): https://www.amazon.ca/Theres-Zoo-Poo-Felice-Jacka-ebook/dp/B08887C4W3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FeliceJacka

Deaken University: https://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/people/felice-jacka

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/prof-felice-jacka/

Thank you to David Langstaff for the original music for the Imperfect Progress Podcast!

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Anne Guzman

Sport scientist, sports nutritionist, content creator, former pro cyclist, life long learner. “Find a way to your dreams, even if it involves detours."
Running, Cycling, Triathlon, Track Cycling, Wrestling
Hamilton, ON

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