We took a break of several months to attend to a variety of other tasks/deadlines. Now we are delighted to return to some of the other topics we promised you in the past.
But first, let’s recap some of the major points from our first dozen blog posts:
- The brain consumes – disproportionately – the most energy of any organ in our body. So when we eat, we need to be thinking about what our brain needs for optimal function.
- The importance of nutrition for brain function has been recognized for millennia. The first ‘clinical trial’ of the mental effects of diet was reported ~3500 years ago, in the Book of Daniel.
- By the early 20th century, it was accepted wisdom that mental illness was caused by suboptimal nutrition — knowledge that was swept away by the development of psychopharmacology halfway through that century. In fact, when the Minnesota Starvation Experiment showed in the 1950s that suboptimal nutrient intake caused severe psychiatric symptoms, those findings were ignored.
- Scientists wanting to study the impact of nutrients on mental health were stonewalled by ‘magic bullet thinking,’ as well as the Scientific Method as it was interpreted in the 20th century. As we wrote previously, in The Inane Search for Magic Bullets to Treat Mental Illness: “What’s wrong with this single-nutrient literature? With precious few exceptions, all of it — hundreds of studies and millions of research dollars — has been wrongly based on the idea that a treatment must consist of just one nutrient at a time.” The minimal benefits demonstrable from a single nutrient (outside frank deficiency syndromes like pellagra) led people to dismiss the overall idea that minerals and vitamins were important candidate treatments.
- We wrote about a child in Calgary whose severe psychosis was successfully treated with broad spectrum minerals and vitamins, at <1% of the cost of his unsuccessful inpatient treatment (Rodway et al., 2012). The cost savings of nutrient treatment alone makes it imperative that our society pay attention to this topic.
- We wrote about Julia’s amazing research that demonstrated that micronutrient treatment helped ordinary citizens (a nonclinical sample) cope better with the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010-11 (Rucklidge et al., 2012). The message is clear: an excellent, inexpensive public health intervention to protect the mental health of a populace dealing with an environmental catastrophe would be to hand out minerals and vitamins.
- We reviewed the field of Nutritional Epidemiology, only about 10 years old, that shows that patterns of food intake in populations are associated with mental symptoms.
- We analyzed and dispensed with the accusations that taking nutrient supplements only creates expensive urine (at best) and might be harmful to our health (at worst).
- We introduced our readers to the work of Paul Amminger, who has shown that nutrient supplementation (omega-3s in his work) at the time of a first episode of psychosis can provide long-term resistance to further episodes (Amminger et al., 2010).
- And since both of us are totally convinced of the importance of treating with broad spectrum formulas, we were delighted to describe to you Julia’s randomized, placebo-controlled trial that showed significant benefit from a multinutrient mineral/vitamin formulation in adults with ADHD and mood dysregulation (Rucklidge et al., 2014).
So we covered a lot of ground, but the list of topics we hope to cover in the near future is even longer. Today, we want to discuss this one: IF NOT MEDS, THEN WHAT? Of course, a great deal of the information published on MadInAmerica is devoted to this very important question, so many constructive ideas are often presented. We think that nutrition and diet should always be part of the conversation, as both moderator variables and mediator variables. You may have heard these terms before. Let’s get academic for just a moment and look at the formal definitions:
- A moderator variable is one that affects the direction and/or strength of the relation between an independent variable and a dependent variable.
- A variable is a mediator to the extent that it actually accounts for the relation between the independent and dependent variables.
Another way to say this: a moderator variable is one that influences the strength of a relationship between two other variables, and a mediator variable is one that explains the actual relationship between the two other variables. Perhaps the best illustration of this issue relates to the issue of predictors of mental illness. The most consistent predictors over decades of research have included poverty and family dysfunction. Family dysfunction can of course be a significant moderator variable: if a family models violent or aggressive behaviour, then that is what children learn. But it is also true that poverty and family dysfunction can be mediators, in that they can account for mental problems because they result in suboptimal nutrition.
Is poverty an important mediator in the relationship between nutrition and mental health? Obviously it is. And here is a disturbing statistic: an astounding 16% of Americans now report running out of food sometimes. This report really illustrates this problem. Processed foods that are nutrient-poor are less expensive to buy. People who are impoverished are also sometimes in circumstances where they cannot access whole foods or have no facility for storing them (as in the linked report). How can they possibly consume an optimal diet? The challenges are enormous.
In our next blog, we’ll tell you about one of the amazing programs addressing these challenges, called Wholesome Wave.
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Amminger GP, et al., Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for indicated prevention of psychotic disorders: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2010;67(2):146-154.
Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173-1182.
Rodway M, Vance A, Watters A, Lee H, Bos E, Kaplan BJ (2012 Nov 9), Efficacy and cost of micronutrient treatment of childhood psychosis. BMJ Case Reports. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2012-007213
Rucklidge, J. J., Frampton, C., Gorman, B., & Boggis, A. (2014). Vitamin-mineral treatment of ADHD in adults: A double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial. British Journal of Psychiatry. 204:306-15
Rucklidge JJ, Andridge R, Gorman B, Blampied N, Gordon H, Boggis A. Shaken but unstirred? Effects of micronutrients on stress and trauma after an earthquake: RCT evidence comparing formulas and doses. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2012 Sep;27(5):440-54.