Diet and Mental Health with Prof Felice Jacka

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Diet and Mental Health with Prof Felice Jacka

There is chronic, worldwide lack of funding available for research into the impact of diet and lifestyle on mood, behaviour and mental health.

Prof Felice Jacka has pioneered an innovative program of research that examines how individuals’ diets and other lifestyle behaviours interact with the risk for mental health problems.

Prof Jacka is currently leading the first randomised controlled trial to examine the impact of dietary improvement in patients with major depression, known as The Smiles Trial and later this month she will be presenting these research findings at the 2017 Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM) conference in Melbourne.  

Today on FX Medicine, Prof Jacka shares with us a window into her accomplished career, a taste of what to expect from the forthcoming ACNEM conference and her passion for food and the microbiome in mental health and wellbeing. 

Covered in this episode

[01:10] Introducing Prof Felice Jacka
[02:52] Prof Felice Jacka's career
[06:15] Research: linking the mind and body
[09:50] Government funding for research?
[12:04] Poor diet is the leading cause of death worldwide
[14:34] The quest for funding
[16:02] Western diet: an environmental toxicant
[17:08] 60% of Americans' diet comes from ultra-processed food
[19:18] How prevalent is a "bad" diet in Australia
[20:16] Irreparable damage to the microbiome
[23:28] Microbiome and mood connections
[29:45] Supplements vs. diet
[40:28] Microbiota diversity is key to health
[41:17] Back to basics: fermentation & pickling
[44:05] Akkermansia muciniphilia
[45:10] Probiotics: discussing the evidence
[47:31] Prof Felice Jacka's forthcoming speaking engagements
[48:54] Advice for professional dietary modification
[51:26] Final thanks to Prof Jacka


Additional Resources

Prof Felice Jacka: Deakin University
Food and Mood Centre
International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR)
Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine Conference
Southern School of Natural Therapies
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Dr Matt Ball: Wild Kombucha
Dr Sarah Lantz: Buchi Kombucha
Prof Petrice Cani: In Gut We Trust
Black Dog Institute



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Prof Felice Jacka
Professor Felice Jacka is Director of the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University. She is also founder and president of theInternational Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research(ISNPR) and immediate past president of the Australian Alliance for the Prevention of Mental Disorders. She has been responsible for the development of a highly innovative field of research establishing diet and nutrition as of importance to common mental disorders. These include the first studies to document a role for diet in adolescent depression – the primary age of onset for common mental disorders – the first study to identify both maternal and early life nutrition as important predictors of children’s mental health, and the first trial to show that dietary improvement can address depression. The results of the studies she has conducted have been highly influential, and she is widely recognized as international leader in the nascent but transformative field of Nutritional Psychiatry research. Professor Jacka’s current research focuses closely on the links between diet, gut health, and mental and brain health. This work is being carried out with the ultimate goal of developing new, evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies for mental disorders. Professor Jacka has published >160 peer-reviewed scientific papers, the majority in high-impact journals in the mental health field including the American Journal of Psychiatry, World Psychiatry, BMC Medicine and Lancet Psychiatry. She is listed in the top ten most highly-cited researchers in mood disorders in Australia (Scopus).