The Importance of Nutrition in Mental Health

With pharmacological approaches both costly in developed nations and largely inaccessible in developing countries, scientists and public health experts are looking at nutritional approaches to address mental health issues.  Jerome Sarris, from the University of Melbourne (Australia), and colleagues submit that: “Evidence is steadily growing for the relation between dietary quality (and potential nutritional deficiencies) and mental health, and for the select use of nutrient-based supplements to address deficiencies, or as monotherapies or augmentation therapies.”  The team submits that in addition to addressing diet quality, there is sufficient evidence to support the notion of nutrient-based therapies to assist in the management of psychiatric disorders.  Studies show that a number of nutrients associate with brain health, including omega-3s, B vitamins (particularly folate and B12), choline, iron, zinc, magnesium, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), vitamin D, and amino acids.  The study authors urge that: “We advocate recognition of diet and nutrition as central determinants of both physical and mental health.”

Additionally, studies have shown that probiotics can improve anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook. Researchers have found that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in Mediterranean and Janapese diets than the typical “Western” diet. Researchers believe that this is a result of the high number of vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, seafood and limited amounts of lean meats and dairly in the traditional diets. Traditional diets also do not normally contain processed and refined foods and sugars – which are plentiful in the “Western” diet. In addition, many of the unprocessed foods in the traditional diets are fermented, and therefore act as natural probiotics.

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