Julia Rucklidge: Nutrition, Mental Health and TED


This week on MIA Radio we interview Dr. Julia Rucklidge. Dr. Rucklidge is professor of clinical psychology at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and she leads the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Julia completed her PhD at the University of Calgary followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

In the last decade, the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group has been running clinical trials investigating the role of broad-spectrum micronutrients in the expression of mental illness, specifically ADHD, mood disorders, anxiety and stress.

Julia has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, has been frequently featured in the media and has given invited talks all over the world on her work on nutrition and mental health.

We discuss:

  • What led Julia to her interest in nutrition and how it may have a role in responding to mental disorders, particularly Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
  • Why using the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals may not be the best approach when responding to psychological difficulties.
  • How Julia went about setting up a Randomised Controlled Trial to investigate the effect of micronutrients and minerals on behavioral problems.
  • That the most consistent finding of the study is that the individuals taking micronutrients improved more in their general functioning and impairment when compared to those just taking a placebo.
  • That it’s hard to move away from the conception of mental illness as a chemical imbalance in the brain, partly because of the vested interest in keeping it alive.
  • That there is no opportunity to patent nutrient therapies, so there is little incentive for research and limited commercial interests.
  • Why a single nutrient response might not be the best approach for someone who wanted to use nutrition to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
  • How a dietary deficiency of Niacin during the 1930s led to a condition called Pellagra which often manifested as psychotic symptoms.
  • What led to the flagging of a 2014 TEDx talk Julia gave entitled “The surprisingly dramatic role of nutrition in mental health”.
  • How Julia felt about her talk being flagged by TED.
  • How many historical medical advances, now accepted as the standard of care, at the time flew in the face of conventional scientific thinking.
  • How difficult it has been to communicate with TED about the flagging of the talk.
  • How Julia hears from many people who get in touch to share that they are struggling with psychiatric medications and instead want to look to nutritional solutions.
  • That the best advice is often simple, eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce the amount of processed food.

Relevant Links:

Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group

Vitamin-mineral treatment of ADHD in adults: A one year follow up of a randomized controlled trial.

Anxiety and Stress in Children Following an Earthquake: Clinically Beneficial Effects of Treatment with Micronutrients

A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of a probiotic formulation for the symptoms of depression

TEDx Christchurch: The Surprisingly Dramatic Role of Nutrition in Mental Health

TED Betrays Its Own Brand By Flagging Nutrition Talk

Contact the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group

Mad Diet by Suzanne Lockhart


  1. james and Julia————-outstanding podcast…
    this is the most important podcast I have listened to here…
    NUTRITION AND MENTAL HEALTH…hold on to your seat…
    because the ride will be uphill all the way…
    thank you both for your courage and honesty…

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    • Dear littleturtle, thank you, as always for listening and for your kind words, I am so very fortunate to get to chat with pioneers like Julia and very glad we can discuss these issues free from censorship. Thanks again, your feedback means a great deal to me.

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  2. very frustrating….where are all the comments here…
    this line of research may be very helpful in treatment…
    but the anti-psychiatry persons don’t like it…
    this has to do with BIO…and it is shunned…
    anti-psychiatry is heavily loaded to the SOC..
    how about soc/psy/bio…can you buy that…
    because this research is very important..
    and I trust james and Julia…thank you…

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    • I don’t hear any “antipsychiatry persons” complaining about this article. I think it’s awesome that people are researching how nutrition affects our mental/emotional well being. The main objection I’ve heard in the past to Julia’s commentaries is only that she uses DSM categories in her published research. I understand her reasons for this AND the reasons why people object to it, and both have good points. But that doesn’t take away from the rather obvious fact that what we eat affects how we feel. I don’t think that an “antipsychiatry” position in any way prevents one from believing that nutritional variables affect one’s mental/emotional state.

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        • I don’t know anybody who doesn’t think biology plays a role in how we feel and act. The objection to psychiatry is not that it involves biology. The objection I have is that 1) psychiatry claims to understand the causes of “mental illness” when it does not; 2) psychiatry pretends that those causes are primarily or exclusively biological (ignoring psychological, social and/or spiritual issues entirely, and also ignoring nutrition, btw); 3) psychiatry lies about the effectiveness/dangers of their drugs (because they are corrupted by pharmaceutical company money!) and 4) psychiatry relies on the legal system to force “treatment” on people who knowingly decline to use it, violating people’s human rights with impunity.

          Biological impacts on behavior are very real, as anyone who has missed a couple nights of sleep in a row or not eaten all day can easily attest. It’s not about denying biology – it’s about resisting a false narrative that’s driven by corruption and power dynamics which doesn’t really lead to healing in most cases, and in many leads to further damage that the psychiatric profession is unwilling to take responsibility for.

          — Steve

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          • You may be right. I think that’s because social causes have been so vigorously and systematically eliminated from consideration by the DSM and the APA. However, medicine in general has always given short shrift to nutrition and sleep and other variables that affect mood. I see nothing wrong with these aspects of someone’s mental/emotional wellbeing being handled by medical folks who actually KNOW about nutrition. My objection to psychiatry is the presumption and marketing of the idea that ALL “mental illnesses” are PRIMARILY caused by biological problems, and that the DSM was created without ANY consideration of the actual cause of any of the so-called “disorders,” including the complete denial of any role for nutrition, exercise, sleep or any other physiological cause or contributing factor.

            I could go on, but I think it’s important for you to recognize that most people in the antipsychiatry camp would never deny that biology plays a role in how we feel. The main objection is to the field of psychiatry deciding who is and is not “mentally ill” and the lies perpetrated in the interests of selling more pharmaceuticals, including forcing some people to take them against their will.

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          • @littleturtle

            I think MIA regular commentors could be skewing that impression a bit. (Though if you could provide statistical sources of how antipsychiatry people think in general to prove me wrong I would dearly appreciate it.)

            I’ve never found any strong evidence behind this statement especially with how it connects to a lack of comments.

            For example the fall of 2nd story is huge news but it has zero comments in MIA.


            …and this isn’t a BIO issue but a SOC issue and this came off of 2nd Story’s Adrian Bernard being a co-host in one of the Mindfreedom Webinars just a month before where I not only attended but Adrian answered a question I wrote (via Zoom Player Q&A) to him where you can see him answering this question here:


            Not only is this a Mindfreedom + MIA + a recent SOC topic – it screams urgent issue but posters ignored the link.

            So where’s the supposed SOC focus bias of the antipsychiatry people on this subject?

            I mean even in this interview – you heard the words “this is all anecdotal” – in terms of degree of importance in biological articles, the degree of SOC vs. BIO disparity is clear here and yet it is here that you actually receive some comments.

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      • “I don’t think that an ‘antipsychiatry’ position in any way prevents one from believing that nutritional variables affect one’s mental/emotional state.”

        Oldhead, get over here. It looks like we need to explain again why all of this nutritional stuff plays into the hands of psychiatry. Let me just put it simply. Eat well. Be healthy. Take vitamins. But for heaven’s sake, stop pretending that there is any such thing as “mental health” or “mental illness” and that nutrition is somehow the salvation of the “mentally ill.” I’m the greatest advocate in the world for proper diet, nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc. In fact, it is also clear that proper diet, nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc. can help a person to remain free from the clutches of psychiatry.

        But when psychiatry, and the language of psychiatry, is combined with the language of nutrition, there is a big problem. It is interesting to consider that Hitler and his Nazi goons were obsessed with nutrition and health. Hitler was a fanatical vegetarian. Goebbels was a fanatical animal rights activist. Nazism and nutrition went hand in hand. Ironically, the Nazis championed nutrition, health, and animal rights while simultaneously experimenting upon Jews and gassing them to death.

        This doesn’t mean that all nutritionalists are Nazis. The point is that the effort to join nutrition to psychiatry is every bit as pernicious as psychotropic psychiatry. The coercion and the dominion are the same. It is the same therapeutic state and tyranny of the omnipotent moral busybodies, albeit less harmful only in the sense that the busybodies use vitamins instead of brain destroying chemical compounds.

        Again, let me be clear. It is good to have a healthy diet, proper nutrition, exercise, sleep, and so forth. Vitamins may also help people to withdraw from psychotropic drugs. But when these same vitamins or nutrition are used as part of the psychiatric regime, the “patient” will continue to suffer under the false impression that he or she is “mentally ill” and therefore in need of “care” by “therapists” or in this case, nutritionists.

        “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C.S. Lewis

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        • I am the biggest critic of the DSM and psych “diagnoses” as you’ll find anywhere. I’m not suggesting that nutrition should be promoted as “treatment” for psych “diagnoses.” What I said was that “I don’t think that an ‘antipsychiatry’ position in any way prevents one from believing that nutritional variables affect one’s mental/emotional state.” This is in SUPPORT of people who are saying they don’t believe in psych diagnoses, not opposed to it! I’m countering the implied or stated criticism, which is pretty common, that people who identify as “antipsychiatry” are denying that nutrition or any other physical body variable affects mental/emotional state. Try not sleeping for three days and you’ll see what I mean. A person who hallucinates after three days without sleep is not “mentally ill,” they are sleep deprived, and there’s no reason why an antipsychiatry activist would deny that obvious fact.

          I hope that clarifies my point. I’m the last person in the world to advocate for using “nutritional cures for ‘ADHD'” or that sort of thing. It totally supports the idea that “ADHD” is a “disorder” that needs to be “treated,” and I find that kind of marketing disingenuous at best, as well as having the unfortunate “side effect” of supporting the “broken brain” view that I so heartily detest.

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          • Sorry Steve. That was my mistake. My comment was meant mostly as a reply to the original post, not your stance. So yes, I agree with you completely that proper nutrition is important for all of us, and that proper diet and nutrition, exercise and sleep will positively impact overall health and fitness.

            In reality, I am pro-liberty and pro-responsibility. As a result of my pro-liberty and pro-responsibility viewpoint, I reject psychiatry which is inherently anti-liberty and anti-responsibility.

            “I’m countering the implied or stated criticism, which is pretty common, that people who identify as “antipsychiatry” are denying that nutrition or any other physical body variable affects mental/emotional state.”

            Thank you for countering that false notion. No one denies that nutrition, etc. influences how a person feels. If this is being used as a straw man argument to attack antipsychiatry, then I’m glad that you are exposing it for what it is. It is like the tactic of those who try to dismiss antipsychiatry by tying it to scientology, etc.

            In any case, I apologize if I made it seem that my comment was directed toward you, when in fact I meant to respond to the original post.

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        • I disagree that it is less dangerous. (Edit: sorry DS, I meant less harmful per your specific wording) At best the two are equal but there can be a case made for it being more dangerous.

          As Julia reveals in her interview, science here is being censored in favor of an agenda. In order for this issue to even occur – it shows that the issue of danger has changed.

          It is no longer a case of Nazism – it is also a case of defamation. A real big one at that. Not some random comment being moderated or tweaked. Ted is a major platform. It is not an artifact of Nazism that poses a less (but still dangerous) following like Neo-Nazism.

          This is as clear evidence that the science on nutrition is being re-narrated and it is not fair to Julia that Ted who claims to uphold multiple views would prevent her studies from being explored further.

          The pro-freedom stance here is clear. Let Julia Rucklidge among many other nutritionists keep on pursuing their studies TED! You are not a random website where one random commentor will report your comment on some random website.

          You have a responsibility of not only hosting events but people try to associate their studies with their brand because you offer them a platform for their ideas that would target the public. Let not only her voice be heard but be criticized on that platform as is. Stop creating this world where she has to go to a smaller site on MIA and hope people will click one interview where she details your injustice towards her hard work underneath them.

          The more a scientist has to go around smaller media interviews to work around actually having their views be told in a larger more publicly consumed media, the less time they have of actually doing any science.

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  3. Neither myself nor my partner eat processed food. Pretty much none at all. In recent years we’ve improved an already excellent diet by growing our own fruit, veg and salads. Next year we’re hoping to start off some olive trees.

    We’re both very active. She probably speed-walks now on average 50 miles per week. Following my achilles injury I’ve returned to biking, as when ridden correctly, there should be minimum strain on the achilles. I’m averaging about 100 miles per week.

    Despite this, she continues to be regularly suicidal and I continue to be as mad as a hatter.

    Results are obviously going to be better felt by people eating very poor diets and leading indolent lifestyles.

    But food and exercise kinda hits a plateua, and from that point you’re on your own. There isn’t anything an extra banana or a few more gruelling miles down bumpy canal paths is going to do for you, other than, add a little scenery or a moment of oral pleasure to your madness, which is no bad thing.

    So probably some people will be significantly helped, but most will be rudely disappointed.

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    • Hi Rasselax.redux – thanks for your comment and sharing your experience with diet. The research is quite clear that there are people who will benefit from a dietary manipulation (like what you describe – reduced processed foods, increased whole foods). Some may need more intervention, like cutting out dyes or dairy or gluten or eggs. BUT, we think there are some people who need more nutrients than what they can get out of their diet – hence the rationale for adding in nutrients like in our research (in pill form). We have seen people who come in to our studies on excellent diets and yet benefit from additional nutrients. We haven’t though figured out how to predict who they will be -that is, who will respond and who won’t.

      Little turtle – I am quite enjoying the lack of attacks as is the norm for the blogs that Bonnie and I write!

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      • Thanks for the reply, Julia.

        I absolutely endorse your work and your point of view. And these days, the food chain is so complex and somewhat compromised, it’s definitely a worthy avenue for people to explore. For instance, I’ve known and read a number of people who have all but eradicated their child’s so-called pathology through carely (and with a lot of effort) eradicating certain foods/chemicals/additives from their diets.

        What’s going to be difficult for many people are getting hold of truly organic produce. Most supermarket fruits and fruit-products are very low in vitamins and minerals. Or so I’m told.

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    • Perhaps, Rasselax.redux, it’s time for supplementation of some kind. Are there any orthomolecular practitioners in your neighborhood? A “face to face” is liable to be necessary, so the practitioner knows what to look and test for. You may be asked questions that seem strange, but actually have a purpose. Tell the practitioner a former madman sent you.

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      • My main focus is on organically-grown produce. We’ve learnt this year about the benefit of allocating wild areas. It brings in new predators and gives shelter to the frogs.

        I probably will end up checking out an orthomolecular practitioner someday. It’s one of the few alternatives I haven’t yet given a run out. The nearest practitioner is about 1.5 miles away.

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    • One of my favorite shows on the Discovery Channel is Naked and Afraid. When these survivalists go several days without protein they start to experience a spiritual emergency. Get some protein or meditate to conserve that spirit.

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  4. Julia – you are right to take pride in your TEDx talk – the standing ovation and cheers at the end say it all. Fabulous!

    The actions of TED’s ‘curation team’ are shameful, and I believe intended to silence other scientists who feel inspired to do likewise. You put it very well yourself with this…

    “It’s very disturbing to me that they have put that flag on because it’s questioning my integrity as a scientist, and that is probably the worst thing that can happen to you in terms of your reputation.”


    “I wonder whether or not I have gotten lumped together alongside people who deny climate change, or deny vaccines work… that I’m anti-psychiatry which is not what I am. I’m just saying “hold on, let’s look at other ways, lets see if we can help those people who aren’t being helped by medications.”

    And yet that’s all it takes to be tarred with the anti-psychiatry brush. Bear in mind that guild Psychiatry controls the definition of anti-psychiatry. Vocal lead psychiatrists such as Lieberman, Wessely and Pies are skilled at using blogs, social media and mainstream media to make sure that everyone understands that anti-psychiatry = anti-science, flaky, bizarre, deviant. Then they can (and do) target anyone they perceive as a threat with the dreaded “anti-psychiatry” slur, and they have an army of dutiful medics, academics and journalists to assist. That is why I decided to embrace and reclaim the word anti-psychiatry – it has been a very liberating move!

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    • Bravo! Language is neutral, but in the wrong hands it can be used for devious purposes. Antipsychiatry may have started out as a pejorative term coined by a psychiatrist to target non-believers with. but there is absolutely no reason for it to remain such. I say good for those non-believers who realized that psychiatry was bogus science, and shoved it back into the face of its practitioners. There are other employments which are, by far, more rewarding than that of mental patient. Additionally, there are many. many practices that are more honest than that of “mental health” professional (updated witch doctor). Perhaps, in time, more people will learn to boycott the con-artists and hoaxers by using the door to the street.

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    • In the end we cannot trust people who put their professional status among their professional colleagues above the struggles of survivors by putting themselves at arm’s length from the anti-psychiatry cause to avoid being “shamed” as anti-psychiatry. Couching what one does, whatever it is, in terms of “mental health” and “mental illness” immediately turns it into snake oil.

      So yes, I guess I’m disagreeing with Auntie here, which does happen on occasion. I don’t see any repressed desire on Julia’s part to reject the psychiatric “model”; she wants to be accepted by that “community” as a pioneering “mental health” expert. I still see nothing “scientific” going on, just more p.r. Both “sides” are wrong.

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      • True. But the same can be said of all people.

        In the end, we cannot trust people AT ALL. Even experts.

        But why shouldn’t people be given the chance to “earn” someone’s trust?

        And I think this is more urgent issue facing our society today.

        Not only is Ted changing the narratives here in the sense of censorship but even my trust of many of the comments here differentiating between healthy diets and how Julia is possibly doing this just for P.R. makes me scratch my head and doubt whether people commenting have watched the actual TedX video.

        Not in the sense of anything malicious (or direct proof that someone did or did not watch it) but rather in the sense of why is the subject of nutrition vis-a-vis psychiatry so much of a theme under these comments when Julia’s Tedx already started with Semelweis (being an example of an era where health studies are dismissed which is a critical area in deciding what is universally considered healthy by people in a current generation) and the later arc of her Tedx talks is all about healthy eating already.

        So why aren’t we talking about fish oils and other specific studies she’s sharing and their flaws? or why is it important that Julia Rucklidge may or may not be doing this for PR an issue when it’s not a Julia Rucklidge being censored that’s the antipsychiatry issue here. It’s the science not being allowed to be science! Even if Ted fixes their wording, the narrative has already changed because people have seen the message warning already and on top of this, the interview in this link already has Julia explaining why the changes became worse!

        I’m not saying there’s a malicious activity to change her narratives under these comment sections either but coming from a guy who has his comments changed a lot ranging from one word being omitted when quoting me to another different comment literally changing the entire intent of my post to being retold into my comment becoming a slur – I don’t know how science in the modern era can even start being science without working on public relations so I guess this is what’s scientific going on in this area.

        It’s not like Julia Rucklidge is an isolated victim.

        This has been happening recently across all levels of science and academia whether it’s pro-drugs or anti-drugs.




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  5. what really bothers me here….I think that more anti and critical
    psychiatry persons would be talking about this…nutrition could
    be a keystone in the treatment of mental suffering….
    psych drugs are just treating symptoms…but nutrition may
    be getting at some of the causes…

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  6. Julia – I contacted the ‘TED team’ to ask this question…

    “I am concerned about the “flag” TED has posted on the talk by Julia Rucklidge – “The surprisingly dramatic role of nutrition in mental health.” The flag does not give any details about why it falls outside TEDx curatorial guidelines. Please could you point me to the specific guidelines which this talk has violated?”

    Eventually I received a reply. They didn’t answer the question, but here’s what they said…

    “Thank you for reaching out to us about Julia Rucklidge’s talk. TED’s curation team is currently in conversation with the speaker and the TEDxChristchurch organizer about this flag. Given that the intersection of nutrition and mental health is an emerging field of study, TED has been actively reviewing the claims put forward in this talk. TED is not considering any removal of the video and it will remain available on YouTube. Please monitor the YouTube watch page for any updates:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dqXHHCc5lA

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  7. Dear Auntie Psychiatry. Thank you for taking the time to write to TED. We need to keep this issue alive for them. The last communication I had with them was 4 weeks ago. They are currently not replying to emails. This is their standard reply….there is no appeal process that I can follow. It is very frustrating and demoralising.

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    • I agree that we need to keep this issue alive for them. The email address for ‘the TEDx Team’ is: [email protected]
      I have just sent them this reply…

      “Thank you for getting back to me. I am re-sending my question because this response does not provide an answer. I have studied the TEDx curatorial guidelines carefully, and I do not see how this talk is in breach of any of them. Please could you point me to the specific guideline this talk has violated?”

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