Mental Health Depends on Good Nutrition
Most of us know that a good diet is important for overall health. Eating right can reduce your chances of developing heart disease, or type 2 diabetes, for instance. And research suggests that certain foods and dietary patterns are associated with a lower risk of developing certain types of cancer, too. In general, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy body weight can be viewed as insurance against any number of physical ailments.
But good nutrition is also crucial for good mental health. The brain uses the lion’s share of energy, for example, and depends on a constant supply of essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and iron, to function properly. The brain also features receptors for vitamin D, so adequate levels of the sunshine vitamin are thought to be necessary for maintaining optimal mood and immune system functionality. The very “fabric” of nerve cell membranes is “woven” from omega-3 fatty acids. So these nutrients—which are often lacking in the typical American diet—are especially crucial.
It seems that the clear link between diet and mental health is often overlooked by pundits and policy experts whenever public discourse turns to the troubling subject of our country’s mental health challenges. To me, it bears serious consideration. If you concede that our nation faces serious mental health concerns—and that mental health begins with a healthy brain, and that healthy brains depend on a healthy diet—it seems prudent to focus on advocating for greater access to healthful foods for everyone.
European psychiatrist, Vicent Balanzá, wrote recently in The Lancet Psychiatry, “…It has been proven that the quality of diet and the deficiencies in certain essential nutrients are determining factors for physical and mental health.” In fact, says Balanzá, nutrition “has become a key factor for the high prevalence and incidence of very frequent mental diseases, such as depression. A balanced diet is as important in psychiatry as it is in other medical specialties such as cardiology or endocrinology.”
Jerome Sarris, Alan C Logan, Tasnime N Akbaraly, G Paul Amminger, Vicent Balanzá-Martínez, Marlene P Freeman, Joseph Hibbeln, Yutaka Matsuoka, David Mischoulon, Tetsuya Mizoue, Akiko Nanri, Daisuke Nishi, Drew Ramsey, Julia J Rucklidge, Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, Andrew Scholey, Kuan-Pin Su, Felice N Jacka. Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2015; 2 (3): 271 DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00051-0