Diet Essential for Good Mental Health
A good quality diet that supplies consistent, optimal nutrition is crucial for good physical and mental health. That’s accepted as more or less common sense today, although we tend to focus on diet’s impact on physical health more often. But new and emerging research underscores the importance of good nutrition for sound mental health, too.
Dr Jerome Sarris, at the University of Melbourne, Australia, is a member of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR). “While the determinants of mental health are complex,” says Sarris, “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.”
“In the last few years, significant links have been established between nutritional quality and mental health,” Sarris adds. “Scientifically rigorous studies have made important contributions to our understanding of the role of nutrition in mental health.” It’s time for psychiatrists to start thinking about the whole patient when treating mental illness, Sarris believes. He thinks that nutrient-based prescription makes sense when treating some mental illness, at both the patient and population levels.
Nutrients such as vitamins B12 and folate, omega-3 fatty acids, choline, iron, zinc, magnesium, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), vitamin D, and certain amino acids, are all known to affect brain health, often to dramatic effect. A higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to a significantly lower risk of depression, for example. Vitamin D levels have also been linked to mood and other aspects of brain function. Low B-vitamin status has been linked to dementia among the elderly.
“While we advocate for these to be consumed in the diet where possible, says Dr. Sarris, “additional select prescription of these as nutraceuticals (nutrient supplements) may also be justified.” Dr. Sarris believes mental health experts need to integrate diet and nutrition into their treatment regimens for a more integrative approach to psychiatry that recognizes nutrition’s fundamental role in brain health.
Jerome Sarris, PhD et al. Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. The Lancet Psychiatry, January 2015 DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00051-0