Nutrition and Mental Health

Bonnie Kaplan, PhDJulia Rucklidge, PhD
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Many of the posts on MadInAmerica are devoted to looking at solutions that are more promising than medications.  The two of us are so pleased to be able to fill in one of the very large gaps in the topics covered thus far: the role of nutrition in mental health.

As research psychologists (and Julia is also a clinical psychologist) who have spent years studying nutrition in relation to mental health, behaviour, and brain development, we know how beneficial nutrition can be for some people tackling mental health problems.  But we also know that many readers are not yet aware of the tremendous scientific inroads made on this topic over the last decade. Julia is faced with this issue when teaching clinical psychology students – many enter the field believing that the only way to influence psychological symptoms is either through talking therapies or through giving a medication that affects the brain. They are typically genuinely surprised that our brains can be influenced by what we eat.

When we give various lectures on this topic around the world, one of the surprising things for both of us is the ‘disconnect’ in the public awareness. Even people who are very knowledgeable about the importance of nutrition and other life style factors for physical health, are not yet aware of the empirical research demonstrating that these life style variables significantly influence brain health. In today’s post, we want to write about why this disconnect is sort of silly.

THE BRAIN IS PART OF THE BODY

It seems inane even to write that statement, especially to this audience, but we know that the lay public tends to forget. Bonnie recalls discussing learning disabilities with a parent group a number of years ago, and being asked by a teacher something to the effect of ‘is it true that learning disabilities come from the brain?’ It seems shocking now, and it was 20 years ago when it happened. But many of us in the health field actually perpetuate this type of thinking by referring to “mind-body connections” and “mind-body medicine” and even by separating mental health from neurological function! Did you know that every once in awhile, a piece appears in a neurology journal, presenting the argument that Psychiatry should not exist as a discipline; that all of brain health should fall under Neurology? There is a point to that argument. It is a reminder to us all that brain health is essential for mental health.

The importance of this issue is extremely relevant to the topic of our blog posts: nutrition and mental health. Nutrients provide the components that enable our metabolism to function properly. So which organ places the greatest demands on our metabolism? The brain (heart is second). Here are two bits of information that we find sort of amazing, and that illustrate this fact:

  1. The brain is approximately 2% of our whole-body weight, but consumes 20-40% of our metabolism. In other words, it is constantly and disproportionately demanding nutrients (and oxygen).
  2. Every single minute your heart is beating, a quart of blood passes through your brain. Why? That quart of blood is bringing nutrients and oxygen (and other metabolic products) to every single nook and cranny in your cranium! So ask yourself — what have you eaten in the last day? Those are the chemicals bathing your brain.

 

FUTURE POSTS

Because this is our introductory blog, we would like to end with two additional points:

  1. Neither one of us is commercially affiliated with any company, and no company has ever funded our research.
  2. We thought it might be helpful to give you an idea of the types of topics we plan to cover. Some of our future posts will be on:
  3. The history of nutrition and mental health, going back ~2700 years
  4. How our immediate ancestors viewed mental health and nutrition, prior to the development of medications that began to emerge in the 1950s and 60s.
  5. The scope of single nutrient treatments from 1920 to the present
  6. The emergence of broad spectrum nutrient treatments in the 21st century.
  7. The epidemiologic data on the relationship between nutrition and mental function.
  8. The 2013 development of the field of ‘nutritional psychiatry,’ whose hallmark is the new scientific group ISNPR (International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research).
  9. Nutritional treatment options for various mental disorders.
  10. The role of microbiota in mental health.
  11. The psychological effects of starvation: what are the lessons from the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, and the Dutch Hunger winter famine about risk of malnutrition on offspring?
  12. How our nutrition research in the past decade leads to a new conceptualization of mental illness.
  13. Whether supplementation is necessary for the “normal” population?
  14. Contemporary topics like new publications that influence public policy.
  15. The challenges of studying and publishing on dietary influences on mental health.
  16. The importance of increased nutritional intake after natural disasters, such as an earthquake.
  17. And so much more: what do we know about nutrients and addictions? What is the mechanism by which nutrition influences mental health? What does nutrition have to do with inflammation?

 

 

27 COMMENTS

    • Poet,
      I strongly agree with your statement that, “An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away. We all know that there is much wisdom in many of the coined phrases that we hear from time to time. The Apple A Day one went over my head for nearly 50 years.

      I became very ill in 2010. I had one foot on my grave and the other foot was on a banana peel. Two years later I found a person was also a surviving the Psychiatric Lie We All Trusted In. And we liked it, as if we were Mikey eating the “Bowl Of Life”. Just Another Brick In The Wall. Up The Creek Without a Paddle. Dust in The Wind.

      When my new survivor friend came into my life, I was carrying around a almost Ten Lb bag of AMA baggage of human toxins. Never forget that legally, if you throw into the garbage what a the AMA man gives you. To Mark it first with a scull and bones. You wouldn’t want to find out what happens if a mental patient gets sick enough to let a child accidentally get ahold of their psychotropics~Psych Patient 101. 1 Psychiatrist 0 Lawyers 1 Rope. But now if you’re a AMA man, you could sprinkle AMA Toxic Pellets (brought to you by you’re trusty friend, BIG PHARMA), all over the little childre’s “Life Of Brian Cereal”.

      I was a dead woman walking on the thin ice of the “Psychiatric Industry. Scull And Bones! I learned a lot from my new friend, including, how to Nourish and Strengthen Myself Physiologically ~Why separate the mind from the body, that’s the “Psychiatric Model” though! I never feel ok if I’m not ELIMINATING properly. And i never feel ok if I’m not eating food that is GMO, Processed, Dairy, Meat, Seafood(because of nuclear contamination of our ocean-most of us are not told about that secret),
      After learning a few basic principals about health and noutrition I Seriously Believe that Not One Person Can Feel Well And Not Follow These Basic Principals. I Definitely could not have gone through the withdwawls of quitting dozens of meds. Metformen(causes diabetes to escalate, but lowers the blood sugar by tricking a failing pancreas to process more White Devil ~sugar). Flex-aril, Pain Medication(for arthritis in my 20’s ~a Serious B12 Deficiency), Aspirin(in case my triple max dose of Wellbutrin triggered a Heart Attack). High Blood Pressure Skittles, Eye Drops for Glaucoma (cost minimum wage earners 100.00 an ounce to burn my eyes so bad). High Cholesterol Toxic Modern Geonicide Skittles(Caused paralysis in my left shoulder, arm, and hand, followed by atrophied muscular condition, and accompanied with tremendous pain for 2 years while my primary care fraud ama (used car salesman, type bedside mannered,self proclaimed “STINKER”) while he sat back thinking of me occasionally, while eating beef wellington with George bush “junior”Both tight as a crab’s ass. Don’t wanna do nothin’ for nobody, just wanna pleasure themselves and lie about it while they both sit there with a shit eaten’ grin on their monkey faces, Oh no I just broke out of my mold again (the man may come and take me away) Punctuation went out the window “Huston We Have A Problem”, “Im Sorry Dave, I Cannot Do That.” “Nurse Rachet, I Need Another Pill” =<( c
      “Help Me S.O.S.”~Sarah Blair ~I could go on and on forever and I WILL!~ With or Without A Psychiatrists “Help”.

  1. The potato based snack food industrial complex is a contagion that has seduced many an unsuspecting mind with slick advertising campaigns…think super stick thin super glamour models necking family size bags of cheesy wotsits like they were grown whole in gods own vegetable plot… Forget big pharm , big potato…that who we have to worry about now….you have been warned…

  2. I’m so happy that there will be more information about how diet impacts mood and behavior. I’m also happy that nutritionist will have a voice. I think that there remains confusion even among those who are informed. I was recently at the Summit for Health Disparities and Obesity at Morehouse University. Although there was a strong message that high calorie foods (fats) are bad, studies showing olive oil supplementation improve cardiovascular outcomes were presented. I think the public is getting a confused message. Clarifying which among the many fatty acids (saturated, unsaturated, omega-3s versus omega-6s) is very much needed. Moreover, I heard Mark Rappoport (Emory psychiatry) talk about a study using omega-3s for depression. The results were negative. I found this curious, because Mark had acknowledged that for cardiovascular outcomes-omega-3 supplementation alone has no effect, but total dietary changes make a huge difference. I wonder what the results on depression would have been if other dietary changes in addition to omega-3s had been made. Hopefully, we can circulate some recipes (easy ones so they’ll get used) as well.

  3. So glad to see this topic here!

    I finally figured out that if I don’t get enough B vitamins, my “mood” plummets. Very much like a little kid, if I eat too much sugar, I am prone to an unpleasant progression of loopy-cranky-tired.

    Oh, hey – speaking of kids, sugar, and behavior, are you going to write anything about Red #40, Blue #1, and Yellow #6? http://www.npr.org/2011/03/30/134962888/fda-probes-link-between-food-dyes-kids-behavior

    That was sort of a blip in the news a couple of years ago…seems important though. If the additives in food impact our neurological processing, seems like people would care about that.

    (Oh, who am I kidding?)

    Thanks again for being here. I’ve heard that the sometimes difficult states associated with diagnoses like “schizophrenia” and “bipolar disorder” can be “cured” with orthomolecular therapies. There are advertisements on the radio for a “clinically tested” nutritional supplement for mood stability and ease of anxiety and some outfit south of the border is marketing a proprietary blend of nutrients as an alternative to psychiatric meds. It seems to have gone way beyond St. John’s Wort and Omega-3s.

    For folks who are interested in this topic, Monica Cassani (www.beyondmeds.com) has posted some really interesting content re: food, nutrition, and wellness.

    Me? I am just glad I can eat gluten.

    Thanks again for addressing the nutrition aspect of the mind-body connection. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  4. So glad to hear that someone is finally getting serious about looking at diet in relation to brain health.

    When my adult son was hospitalized three years ago I was told by many doctors and psychiatrists that bad diet couldn’t possibly be the cause of his mental illness. “They add vitamins to everything” one doctor told me. “Your son could not possibly have a nutritional deficiency”. This in spite of the fact that he ate nothing but candy and pastries, and drank nothing but soda. Since then I have met many people diagnosed with mental illness and I have found that the one thing they all seem to have in common is that they eat very few fruits and vegetables.

    I am looking forward to your research findings so I can show them to my son. Maybe if the scientists tell him its important to eat well, he just might believe it.

  5. Given the healthy Inuits, perhaps it is not the absence of fruits and vegetables, but the presence of highly processed simple carbohydrates, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, etc. in the common commercial pastry which causes…what?

    I have met a lot of people who eat nothing but candy and pastries and drink nothing but soda, and the one thing that they all seem to have in common is that they don’t seem particularly interested in other aspects of a generally healthy life either, like being outside and moving around…picking blueberries with one’s family, like the Inuits.

    I actually do alright if I don’t eat vegetables or fruit, but I have to have vitamin B or…you know…like I said before, the “mood” plummets.

    I’ve read that vitamin B6 is necessary to convert tryptophan into serotonin. Is that true?

    (Note: In acknowledging that I take vitamins to support serotonin function, I am not suggesting that I have a “chemical imbalance” – only that my serotonin regulation mechanisms might have gotten messed up after being fed a steady diet of anti-this and anti-that during my developmental years.)

  6. I had many kinds of potatoes this morning. The red, the “normal, and two other kinds. But this is just one of those/these mornings when I feel like I’ll get pulled into a trip, which didn’t go down the clothes chute. Although I almost flushed something else…

  7. Lots of nuts and bananas (seriously). Vegetarianism is good. I do love good cheese that’s truly Amish. Eggs that are truly from free range chickens I eat a little (not too much). I do eat lots of bread, because they have it at the soup kitchen in carts for free; but usually only when it’s whole grain. A LOTS of vegetables. I don’t cook beets, turnips, beans or peas. These I cut up and put in a bowl for enzymes so I can digest. I do cook potatoes and parsnips, though. Always organic potatoes or apple, when I can get them. And the other fruits, when it comes out.

    I also love cilanto; even in bananas with strawberries and stuff…

  8. More than 35 years ago, I thought I would be one of the last people ever to experience the nightmare of “mental illness” and psychiatric drug “treatment”. As soon as I was diagnosed with manic-depression and prescribed lithium carbonate in 1974, I started putting pieces of the puzzle together. I had been in the Submarine Force in the late 1960s and exposed to lithium hydroxide used for carbon dioxide absorption in an emergency.

    The fact that no doctors were interested in my previous exposure to a dangerous chemical with mood-altering properties and that now they considered this same chemical as the wonder drug for what they felt now ailed me raised my suspicions. I consulted with people I knew in nuke weapons development, because lithium is an atomic bomb element, and was advised to never put it into my body.

    Eventually, in 1981, I was lead to a chiropractor who was treating workers at the nearby nuke submarine shipyard for exposure to toxic chemicals.
    http://alebrocenter.liveitlifestyle.com/
    He sent a sample of my hair to a lab for tissue mineral analysis and obtained a diet and supplement program for me. This was my first introduction to orthomolecular therapy and the pioneering work of Abram Hoffer, Linus Pauling, Humphrey Osmond, John Smythies, Carl Pfeiffer and many others.

    Soon feeling much better and more energetic, I travelled to Virginia and met personally with Lao Russell, with whom I had had a long correspondence about elemental matters.
    http://www.philosophy.org/
    She suggested that I use the services of Analytical Research Labs, which she felt was doing the most advanced orthomolecular work at the time.
    http://www.arltma.com/

    I was being treated during that period by an eminent psychopharmachologist at McLean Hospital. After a few months on the ARL program, I had improved so much that he allowed me to withdraw from medication (Haldol), and in a few more months, he declared that I had had a spontaneous remission and released me from further monitoring and treatment. It shocked and disappointed me that he took no interest in the orthomolecular program I was using, but I soon realized that in a profit-making mental health system, treating symptoms is far more profitable than enabling recoveries.

    • Your last sentence hit the nail squarely on the head. If we help people recover then we have to go out and find more people to treat. Who wants to do that when you can turn people into permanent patients with the toxic drugs! Once the revolving door is set up you have almost total job security!

  9. Very few medical professionals have any idea of how nutrition affects health, let alone mental health. I had B12 levels just above the bottom of the reference range and my doctor didn’t even notice because the report didn’t flag them – as if reference ranges were set in stone. He called the idea of injections “woo” and offered me adderall for my low energy instead. Obviously I knew better and fired him, but it can be difficult to find a good professional. I have had a lot of success with supplements that address methylation (many people are poor methylators genetically), mitochondrial biogenesis, and hormone/HPA axis issues.

  10. Part of my current personal ‘system’ besides things like regular exercise and zen techniques is diet. I’ve been basically eating kind of low carb, maybe a bit Mediterranean style. Lots of tomato, cucumber, olives, olive oil and also pretty unprocessed meat (fish, chicken, etc). Little carbs. One or two pints or glasses of wine per day. I don’t know how good it really is but I’ve lost 24 kg in a year and my BMI is less than 24 currently, also my mind is clear and I no longer have any cravings for carbs.

  11. Fish oil might be a fad, but it can do something good for some people. When I was suffering the worst of antidepressant withdrawal syndrome and was at the height of hypersensitivity, after I took my fish oil capsules, I could feel its soothing effect.

    I’ve been taking 2,000-4,000mg DHA and EPA daily for many years. My good cholesterol is so high, I’ve been exempted from being harassed to take statins for cholesterol control.

    I would not be without my fish oil. I’d love to get my omega-3s from food, particularly fish. If they weren’t a mercury hazard and mostly endangered, I’d eat them every day. Unfortunately, it would have to be as sushi — because cooking destroys the omega-3 fatty acids, as you would expect.

    As it is, I eat sushi every chance I can get. I wish I could afford more of it.

  12. BRAVO !!!! Bob, I can’t tell you how absolutely thrilled to find that you have invited these two brilliant women to contribute a series to your site! This is a topic that needs to be broadcast from the roof tops! Really? A concept so simple as feeding your brain good nutrition might just possibly translate to better brain function? YES, INDEED!!! It ain’t rocket science, but perhaps this is what we’ve needed – for smart women like these (rocket-scientist calibre of women)to guide us back to some plain old common sense! I LOVE IT !!! Thank you Bonnie and Julia !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Also, if you want to try something, it’s not necessary to use oil. You can just add water enough that you get the same effect (onions, cabbage etc work this way). Celery, you don’t fry the apples for an apple pie do you? Also, it’s not necessary to use a microwave often. You can use a blow dryer.

    I know, it’s too reminiscent of the horrible movie with Johnny Depp called Benny and June, but still: THAT works. You can probably melt cheese with it instead of ruining your iron for grilling.

  14. I also like drinking filtered water without flouride and then, if anything, adding a little bit of juice concentrate and about 3/4 teaspoon of ground dandelion root.

    This works in a 32 ounce container for me. There are various beverages you can buy in such a containers, and you can use the old one, or that you already have one….

  15. In the morning I usually have two cloves or more of chopped up garlic, some sort of grain product (OTameal or wheat etc.) with honey, cinnamon, coca powder and ginger powder. Added to this I have a cup of hot water with a squirt of lemon juice with a capful of vinegar and also some honey. (That ALOS is better than pop)

  16. The elephant in the room is the damage conferred by vaccines. By the time a child is 6 yrs old, she/he has received upwards of 49 doses of 14 vaccines, starting at birth w/a hepB $hot containing 240 mgs of aluminum, more than Shaquille O’Neal could handle. The neuro-toxic and carcinogenic components of vaccines present a myriad of disorders including, but not limited to: myalgia, allergies, asthma, diabetes, seizures, Guillain-Barre, ADHD, Autism, Alzheimer’s, etc.

    Formaldehyde, aluminum, thimerosol (49.6% ethyl mercury), msg, polysorbate 80 (reproductive sterilization chemical), peanut oil, phenols, carbolic acid, foreign DNA/viruses, dead animal pus, etc. are just some of the toxic ingredients contained within vaccine serums. These neuro-toxic and carcinogenic chemicals do not confer life-long immunity such as that realized by actually being exposed naturally to chickenpox, measles, mumps, etc. As someone born in the 50’s, we all had chickenpox, mumps, and measles, considered a rite of passage, and if you didn’t contract them, you went to a ‘chickenpox’ party, for ex. to be exposed so as to get that particular virus. These natural viruses fortify and strengthen the immune system and are necessary for discharging toxins accumulated embryonically via the mother through the umbilical cord.

    The vagus nerve is among the first organ systems to develop in the initial embryonic stage and this nerve connects the brain to the gut. Any chemicals such as those in vaccines, drugs, foods, etc. will affect the brain and vice-versa, the gut. It is like a two-lane highway that is a pathway between the brain and the intestinal/stomach area. Everyone has probably experienced the mental anguish or worry about something that literally can cause one to get sick to their stomach. Eating certain foods, taking drugs, vaccines, etc. will also affect the brain’s function. We have all witnessed this w/sugar intake and realize how our body reacts w/sugar highs/lows.

    I’m glad to see more conversation around the entire organism. The allopathic view has been to treat the brain and body as separate entities and to use maintenance meds, surgery, and other modalities to ‘treat’, but not to ‘cure’ the malady. There is no profit in having healthy patients.

    For an overview of the vagus nerve and how it functions in the body, as well as how certain food components such as gluten intolerance/celiac disease can result in schizophrenia, for ex., check out http://www.gutandmentalillness.com for starters. Dr. Russell Blaylock, a prominent neuro-surgeon, has written and lectured extensively on the connection between chemicals, drugs, vaccines, foods, etc. and how the brain is affected. His work in studying the prison population and how diet, in particular, affects the chemistry of the brain in prisoners, is well-researched and notable for how changing just the food intake of such a population can have a positive affect on the behavior and well-being of prisoners, not to mention reducing the rate of recidivism.