Despite consuming more calories than ever, many people do not get their recommended intake of brain-essential nutrients, a new study reports.
Doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, psychiatrists and others all question the lack of attention paid to nutrition in mental health, in the review, published in The Lancet Psychiatry (Sarris et al., 2015).
Studies have shown clear links between the following nine nutrients (among others) and brain health:
- B vitamins (particularly folate and B12),
- S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe),
- vitamin D,
- and amino acids.
Dr Jerome Sarris, the study’s first author, said:
“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.”
The study explains the best way of getting the required nutrients:
“A traditional whole-food diet, consisting of higher intakes of foods such as vegetables, fruits, seafood, whole grains, lean meat, nuts, and legumes, with avoidance of processed foods, is more likely to provide the nutrients that afford resiliency against the pathogenesis of mental disorders.”
Nevertheless, says Dr Sarris, nutritional supplements can be beneficial:
“While we advocate for these [nutrients] to be consumed in the diet where possible, additional select prescription of these as nutraceuticals (nutrient supplements) may also be justified,”
Multiple studies now show the link between poor nutrition and the increased risk of depression and other mental health problems.
Dr Felice Jacka, one of the study’s co-authors, said:
“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.”
Dr Sarris concluded:
“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.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Nutrients image from Shutterstock