Nutrition and mental health

Nutrition and mental health

Did you ever wonder diet and our mental health might be interlinked? Recent evidence has suggested that diet plays an important role in one’s mental health. Though, there exists many gaps to establish a direct link between mental health and nutrition. Hence, a new field in psychology called nutritional psychiatry has gained interest and recognition.

We all have been asked to take balanced diet by our doctors. Earlier, it was only restricted to physical health but now mental health has become a huge focus for general population and scientist. Therefore, there is growing interest in how food affects our mental health. Researches are going on to see a connection between mental health and nutrition. We often come across pamphlets, flyer, tv programmes which speak volumes on how food rich in particular nutrition impacts our mind and body. In addition to this, there are books in markets which talks on how particular food rich in certain nutrition affects our mind. Still, there is no clear evidence that food affects our mental health in spite of all the marketing strategies done by food manufactures and market executives.

Amidst all, a review presented focused on how beneficial it would be if neuropsychiatric disorders manifested due to pressing social norms that could be treated with dietary changes. It will be a blessing for many people. The topic itself is complex and has many layers which needs to unearth. In view of mental health and nutrition, researchers reviewed some existing researches and its findings were published in European Neuropsychopharmacology. The researchers who reviewed existing researches found that there is a direct link between certain nutrition and mental health. However, it is difficult to determine whether nutrition alone is a driving factor. This step was taken to get a clear understanding on impact of nutrition and mental health as well as to identify the gaps in our knowledge which require increased scientific attention.

In some ways, it does make sense that diet may affect our mood. As we all are aware with the fact that nutrition is necessary for our brain to function. The food we eat indirectly affects our mood and cognition. For example: our diet impacts the secretion of hormones, neurotransmitters, bacteria etc. in our body which ultimately affects our mood. A new term came into existence called food-mood connection. Nevertheless, it is a challenging task to obtain a concrete information on how nutrition affects mental health. Professor Suzanne Dickson hailing from University of Gothenburg situated in Sweden told that they came across increasing evidence which showed direct link between poor diet and worse mood disorders that comprised of anxiety and depression. Over the years, there is one diet which has received a lot of attention by researchers which is: Mediterranean diet; it consists of traditional food eaten in Greece and Italy. It is characterized by higher consumption of vegetables and olive oil and moderate consumption of protein. This diet is highly recommended by US Dietary Guidelines. According to them, healthy diet is important to mental health in same way as it is to physical health. A combination of 20 longitudinal and 21 cross-sectional studies provided evidence which suggested that Mediterranean diet offers protective effect against depression. They found supportive evidence that some changes in dietary plans can be effective against certain conditions such as children suffering from drug resistant epilepsy tends to have fewer seizures which they follow a Ketogenic diet that is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. In addition to this, it has been found that people with deficiency in vitamin B-12 suffer from memory problems, fatigue, and lethargy. Providing these individuals with supplementation of vitamin B-12 can significantly improve mental well-being.

There is still holes in our knowledge to reach to a concrete conclusion. For example: take the case of vitamin D, some researches have concluded that intake of vitamin D supplementation improves working memory and attention in older adults while other researches has reached to a conclusion that intake of vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of depression. In context of importance of nutrition in attention hyperactivity deficit disorder, prof. Dickson pointed out that we can see that increase in refined sugar in our diet is positively linked with ADHD and hyperactivity and on the other hand, eating vegetables and fruits seemed to protect against these conditions. There are very few studies and many didn’t even last long to show effects. Hence, prof. Dickson concluded that it is very difficult to prove that there exists a direct link between nutrition and mental health.

Nutritional psychiatry indeed has gained interest of the researchers due to its unique nature. Though findings in the review paper about diet effects on mental health are true yet we require evidences to support the researches before jumping to any conclusions. There lies a long and arduous journey ahead in order to reach a concrete conclusion.

About the Author

Kajal Gupta

Hello, I am kajal. I have completed my bachelor's in psychology and pursuing masters. I sometimes feel short of words when I speak but writing make

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