It’s extremely important that experts in the fields of psychiatry and public health recognize the undeniable link between mental health and diet and nutrition, say leading academics in a new paper published in the The Lancet Psychiatry.
Research has overwhelmingly confirmed the relationship between nutritional deficiencies and poor mental health. Psychiatry is now at a critical stage, say the experts, with the current medically focused model having achieved only minimal progress toward relieving the global burden of poor mental health.
“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.
“Maternal and early-life nutrition is also emerging as a factor in mental health outcomes in children, while severe deficiencies in some essential nutrients during critical developmental periods have long been implicated in the development of both depressive and psychotic disorders,” said Felice Jacka, Ph.D., a researcher at Deakin University and president of the ISNPR.
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: University of Melbourne