Positive Schools 2020

Thursday Main Stage

Diet and Brain Health Over the Life Course

Professor Felice Jacka


With depressive disorders the leading source of disability globally, the identification of new targets for prevention and management is imperative. The 20th century has seen major shifts in dietary intakes globally, with a marked increase in the consumption of sugars, snack foods, take-away foods and high-energy foods.

At the same time, the consumption of nutrient-dense foods, such as high-nutrient vegetables and raw fruits, is diminishing. Unhealthy diet, as a key contributor to the high prevalence noncommunicable diseases, is now recognised as the leading risk factor for early mortality globally. However, there is now overwhelming body of evidence to tell us that unhealthy diet is also a key risk factor for psychiatric illnesses, including depression, anxiety and dementia.

In this presentation, Felice will provide an up-to-date, critical assessment of the evidence regarding the impact of diet quality on depression, anxiety across age groups and countries. She will then address the rapidly developing evidence base pointing to diet as a critically important and modifiable risk factor in parents prior to conception and in pregnant mothers and their children. She will particularly focus on the new evidence for the microbiome-gut-brain axis in mood and behavior. Finally, Felice will discuss new evidence for diet as a clinical strategy for improving mental and brain health and address the future research imperatives in this field.

This powerful talk emphasizes the need for schools to educate young people in the link between their diet and their mental health; and ensure healthy foods are offered in school canteens.


About Felice


Professor Felice N Jacka is the Director of the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University, Geelong, Australia. She is also a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at The University of Melbourne.

Felice has pioneered and expedited the development of a robust body of evidence regarding the influence of lifestyle behaviours, particularly diet, on common mental disorders and is now recognised as a research leader in this field.

Felice is internationally recognized as a leader in the rapidly developing field of research focused on Nutritional Psychiatry and is the President of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR). She is the author of the book ‘Brain Changer’ through Pan Macmillan in Australia and Yellow Kite Books in the UK.