Diet and Mental Health

Diet Plays Important Role for Mental Health says the Association for Psychological Science in an article published on November 17.[i]

I will refrain from sarcasm here (not even a single “Really?! Who knew?!” (oops…that one just slipped out, darn it!….)) because at least they did write about it and are looking at the science.  This is a sore subject for me.  Why?  I’ll put it this way: after 20+ years in the autism world, I am often asked what the best treatment is for autism in my experience.  The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is still, by far, number one in my book.  I have seen more kids, of all ages and functioning levels, improve via diet than any other treatment.  I left special education, in fact, to work as a nutritionist for a reason. There is nothing like the right diet to improve health, and when I say health, I mean both physical and mental.  And yet….

…the authors of this paper point out that nutrition is not a part of mainstream medicine when it comes to mental health.  I am sure that’s true, unfortunately, but it’s actually far worse than that. Many doctors have told me over the years that they had 1 week of nutrition in their 4 years of medical school. So, nutrition is not actually a part of mainstream physical medicine either.  Are any of asked about our diets in the 5 minutes we have for our annual physicals?

And yet, a healthy diet is probably the single most fundamental source of good health.

This article showcases 5 papers that give a good, broad example of the kinds of crucial information demonstrated by the limited research on this topic.

 The first paper is a large-scale study of the broader Mediterranean lifestyle that includes diet, exercise and social activity.  Looking at almost 12,000 people, the researchers found that each variable independently predicts a lower risk of depression.

 The 2nd article compared 21 children with ADHD to an equal number of matched controls.  The children with ADHD consumed the same amount of essential fatty acids (EFA) and yet, they still showed signs of deficiency.  Also, those with lower EFA intake were also most likely to show greater ADHD symptoms.

 The next paper looked at using the amino acid NAC (n-aceytl-cysteine) to treat obsessive compulsive disorder.  While the study showed no statistical difference between the groups, subgroup analysis did show that those who had OCD symptoms for a shorter period of time did seem to improve.  The researchers recommend retesting with a larger sample size.

The 4th paper was a small (14 adults) 8 week open-label study of the effects of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) on insomnia.  The participants all reported improvements in insomnia as well as mood, stress and anxiety.

 The final paper was on the relationship of inflammation and depression.  The researchers examined data on diet from over 4000 adults over a 5 year period and found that those with diets that would be considered inflammatory had a markedly increased risk of developing depression.

 I will be writing a lot more about the importance of diet on this blog over time as it is crucial for good health, remembering that of course, diet also directly affects the gut biome…which in turn, directly affects health. In fact, here’s a teaser for my next post:  a recent article in Cell showed that a fiber-deprived gut leads to degradation of the colonic mucosal barrier.  And yes – that is a very bad thing!

[i] From

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