Diet & Nutrition: A Key Factor to Mental Health?

By Lisa Franchi on February 03, 2015

It’s extremely important that experts in the fields of psychiatry and public health recognise the undeniable link between mental health and diet and nutrition, say leading academics in a new paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

“While the determinants of mental health are complex, the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a key factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that nutrition is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology,” said lead author Jerome Sarris, Ph.D., from the University of Melbourne, a member of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR).

“In the last few years, significant links have been established between nutritional quality and mental health. Scientifically rigorous studies have made important contributions to our understanding of the role of nutrition in mental health,” he said.

Researchers have found that in addition to healthy eating, nutrient-based prescriptions also have the potential to assist in the management of mental disorders. For example, studies show that a variety of nutrients have a clear link to brain health, including omega-3s, B vitamins (particularly folate and B12), choline, iron, zinc, magnesium, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), vitamin D, and amino acids.

“While we advocate for these to be consumed in the diet where possible, additional select prescription of these as nutraceuticals (nutrient supplements) may also be justified,” Sarris said.

Many studies have also shown associations between healthy eating and a reduced prevalence of and risk for depression and suicide across cultures and age groups.

Another systematic review published in late 2014 has also confirmed a relationship between “unhealthy” dietary patterns and poor mental health in children and teens. Given the early age of onset for depression and anxiety, the information points to dietary improvements as a way of preventing the initial onset of common mental disorders.

“It is time for clinicians to consider diet and additional nutrients as part of the treating package to manage the enormous burden of mental ill health,” said Sarris, an executive member of the ISNPR. He  believes that it is time to advocate for a more integrative approach to psychiatry, with diet and nutrition as key elements.

Source of this article: Diet, Nutrition Closely Linked to Mental Health

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