Why is this important?
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a complex, severe and persistent mental health condition that can occur following exposure to single or multiple trauma events. PTSD is the most prevalent mental health disorder in Australian community with data from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing indicating that over one million Australians have PTSD. Conventional treatment approaches of psychotherapy or medication are necessary, but insufficient, due to factors such as response failure, non-compliance, stigma, cost, side effects or be inappropriate for certain groups (e.g. children). Alternative or adjunctive approaches are required. Associations between unhealthy eating patterns and PTSD and recent investigations into the therapeutic impact of dietary changes on common mental illnesses such as depression, lead us to enquire about the potential of taking a dietary approach in PTSD. Specifically, given the links identified between the Mediterranean diet and biological pathways that are involved in PSTD, the Mediterranean diet demands consideration as a potential modulator of those pathways.
How are we doing this study?
The focus of this research is to investigate the impact of dietary changes on PTSD. This study is a randomised controlled trial to investigate whether an online Mediterranean Diet program is effective in reducing PTSD symptoms. A sample of 200 Australian adults, with some degree of PTSD symptoms, will be recruited. Participants will be randomly allocated to two study groups: Participants randomly allocated to the supplements group are asked to maintain their customary diet whilst they undertake an online diet supplementation information program for PTSD for 10 weeks. Participants randomly allocated to the diet treatment group are required to maintain an intervention dietary pattern based on a traditional Mediterranean diet and will engage in an online Mediterranean dietary information program about this diet for 10 weeks.
What are we hoping to find?
The primary outcome of interest is the quantitative difference in PTSD symptom severity and frequency as measured by empirically validated self-report measure of the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5). Secondary outcomes may potentially include change in dietary inflammation levels, diet quality and quality of life.
If an online Mediterranean Diet program is shown to be efficacious in the reduction of PTSD symptoms it could provide a pragmatic and cost-effective alternative or adjunct treatment strategy for the management of this highly prevalent and debilitating mental disorder; the benefits of which could extend to the management of common co-morbidities including mood and anxiety disorders and chronic health problems.
Ultimately, this project will help answer a common question asked by PTSD sufferers: what diet is helpful to my condition?