Joanne Bradbury1,2, Professor Stephen P. Myers 1, Chris Oliver 2,3
1 Australian Centre for Complementary Medicine, Education and Research (ACCMER), a joint venture between University of Queensland and Southern Cross University, NSW, Australia; 2 School of Natural and Complementary Medicine, Southern Cross University, NSW, Australia; 3 Blackmores Ltd, Australia
Background: The purpose of this study was to confirm the evidence that low-fat diets are associated with stress and negative mood states.
Methods: Four self-report stress and mood measures were correlated with a crude dietary fat screen in 93 university staff that responded to an advertisement for a stress and dietary fats study. The screen was a modification of two previously validated dietary assessment questionnaires. The three stress measures were the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the Occupational Stress Inventory – Revised (OSI-R), and a visual analogue scale (VAS). The mood scale was the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS). Subjects completed the questionnaires at two measuring points, with a 10-week interval.
Results: At Time 1 there was an inverse correlation between fish intake and vocational strain (r= -0.30, p<0.01). That is, staff reporting high levels of fish intake also reported lower levels of work stress. At Time 2 there were inverse correlations between dietary fats and psychological strain (r= -0.27, p<0.05), physical strain (r= -0.26, p<0.05) and total personal strain (r= -0.28, p<0.05). That is, staff reporting higher dietary fat intakes also reported lower physical and mental stress.
This was a simple correlation study to ascertain whether dietary fat intakes are associated with stress. Several instruments were used. Only the most sophisticated instrument, the OSI-R strain subscales, had the sensitivity to detect significant relationships with the sample sizes used. While the specific relationships showed some variability over time, a significant association between dietary fats and stress was verified. Further studies are required to explore the reasons that the significant relationships showed variability over time, and whether dietary fats in general or specific fatty acids may be most ‘protective’ in stress.