Study Explores Connections Between Diet and ‘Serious Mental Illnesses’

Study finds that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression have diets that are more inflammatory and higher in calories.


In a letter to the editor recently published in World Psychiatry, researchers describe a study comparing the difference in nutrition and diet-associated inflammation between people diagnosed with a serious mental illness (SMI) and the general population. The authors found that, when compared to controls, those diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression had diets with a higher inflammatory index and higher total energy, carbohydrate, sugar, total fat, and saturated fat intake.

Previous research has demonstrated the existence of a relationship between having a diet higher in pro-inflammatory foods and depression. The authors of the present study, point out that research has shown that persons diagnosed with SMI have higher levels of peripheral inflammatory markers. Having diets with a higher caloric intake and excessive consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods increase levels of systemic inflammation as well as the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular mortality.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Using Data from the UK Biobank study, individuals who had received a diagnosis of a recurrent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder (type I or II), or schizophrenia and healthy controls were selected from the UK Biobank participants. Almost 70,000 participants were included in the data analysis, of which 54,000 were used as controls.

The schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression groups all showed significantly higher total calorie, carbohydrates, sugar, total fat, saturated fat, and protein intake. No significant changes were noted when adjusting for ethnicity, body mass index, education, and social deprivation. The authors also analyzed the inflammatory index of the participants. Data revealed that participants with a schizophrenia and depression diagnosis had diets with a significantly higher inflammatory index when compared to controls.

The authors explain that this data revealed, “people with SMIs have higher intakes of obesogenic nutrients and more inflammatory diets than the general population.” They suggest, “further consideration should be given to increasing consumption of nutrient‐dense foods that are known to reduce systemic inflammation.”



Firth, J., Stubbs, B., Teasdale, S. B., Ward, P. B., Veronese, N., Shivappa, N., … & Sarris, J. (2018). Diet as a hot topic in psychiatry: a population‐scale study of nutritional intake and inflammatory potential in severe mental illness. World Psychiatry17(3), 365. (Link)

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Bernalyn Ruiz
MIA Research News Team: Bernalyn Ruiz-Yu is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles. She completed her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Dr. Ruiz-Yu has diverse clinical expertise working with individuals, families, children, and groups with a special focus on youth at risk for psychosis. Her research focuses on adolescent serious mental illness, psychosis, stigma, and the use of sport and physical activity in our mental health treatments.


  1. I found it ! this article reminds me of the Eli Lilly tactic of Blame the patient when their drugs cause “diet-associated inflammation” LOL

    Lilly PowerPoint: “Execute the S#!t Out of Them”; a Photo Gallery of Drug Rep Sales Advice

    “higher intakes of obesogenic nutrients and more inflammatory diets than the general population.”

    Ya right, just look at the ‘general population’, most of them a MAJORITY steady diet of Mc Donalds and Seven Eleven Big Gulps And Hot dogs.

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  2. What is the causal direction? Largest Differences were found for psychotic individuals. Many antipsychotics make you hungry. Why did the authors not control for medication? I guess that at least part of the problem could be medication, but curious what you think.

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  3. Ketosis is good for health for ALMOST everyone. And pure carbohydartes are poison for everyone. Ketosis is good, because it helps you to keep your glucose level low. Believe or not, our digestive system works perfectly only if carbohydrate level in food is lower than 5 %. Sweets are poison for everyone.

    The problem lies in logic, witches (mentally ill) need fire (drugs, healthy food) to become pure. Normal people do not need fire, because they are good enough.

    Re -visioning psychology – James Hillman
    Manufacture of madness – Szasz

    Ketosis -

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  4. I do not understand why my post about ketosis was removed. Carbohydrates – sweets, are poison. The low level (5%) carbohydrates in daily diet, should be obligatory.
    Normal people can eat trash. And “mentally ill” should eat healthy.

    Holy water and fire is also only for those, who are being seen as unclean.

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  5. “further consideration should be given to increasing consumption of nutrient‐dense foods that are known to reduce systemic inflammation.”

    Hey you, “mentally ill patient” you’ve been suffering and these drugs that we’ve given you are causing you to suffer more while at the same time negatively affecting your thinking (but we’re just going to ignore that part) so just stop being so lazy and improve your diet already!

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      • Or else they ignore the weight gain as if it isn’t a substantial side effect and thus “worth it” for the other “benefits” of the “meds.” Either way, not dealing with the real problem imho.

        For me, Zyprexa was bad enough, but Remeron was far worse.

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        • I got that when one of my foster youth clients had a horrible hand tremor that she spent all day, every day dealing with. “What’s a little hand tremor compared to all the behavioral benefits she’s getting?” Without questioning the so-called “benefits,” my inclination was to say, “That’s easy for you to say – it’s not your hand!”

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          • Exactly!

            Another thing – the “patient” may not be seeing many or any benefits at all, but has been told that the drugs are “necessary” because of chemical imbalance or whatever. I believed it for a long time. That may be hard for “outsiders” to understand, but the drugs do diminish ones thinking capacities a lot. Of course if the “patient” is a child, it’s even worse, because they don’t have much (any?) say in the matter. Same for involuntary “patients.”

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      • You wouldn’t expect the psychiatric poohbahs to stop their patients’ olanzapine just because their patients suddenly weigh 300+ pounds, do you? There go the trips and the gifts and the office supplies for those rash enough to believe their health-giving meds might be somehow responsible.

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          • No, it’s because our scholars don’t know how to do accurate studies. To do this right, they’d have to eliminate those on psych drugs beforehand, as their alleged medications have the side effect of promoting ravenous appetite and weight gain, corrupting their experimental group. Diet does effect “mental” health, but you can’t learn squat about it with a contaminated experimental group.

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  6. Ketogenic diet
    Yeah it is worth seriously looking at… suppose to help balance out glutamate/gaba to prevent seizure… but how ? The problem is that it can increase possibility of kidney stones. However if it does help balance out glutamate/gaba it would be a positive for those withdrawing from benzodiazepines/alcohol.

    My view is that zyprexa/olanzapine is forced as a form of punishment. Psychiatrists and psych nurses know full well how appalling this drug is. For those who do not know, it forces you to eat no matter how much food you have already eaten. If you are awake you want to eat constantly knowing full well you are pushing yourself to diabetes. This is a form of torture.

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  7. at a strictly practical level, im almost tempted to say…if the psych people can get poor(er) people better food and such, OK. let them spin it to boost their position and importance. but then…is it really worth it, in the long run? In the US, ssi for psych stuff has become the “new welfare,” as the old welfare was shredded and regulated to further punish the poor. the “new welfare” is basically the medicalization of poverty, and it costs a lot more (pills, hospitals, MDs, LPCs, etc.) than the old welfare. so…

    thinking from a moral perspective and a long term social planning perspective, the best approach would be to speak the truth…both to power, and in general…and say: late stage capitalism makes people–me included– angry, sad, alienated, and…at times…physically sick. fix it, for the good of the people. and…along the way, take back power and truth from ‘experts,’ especially the psych ‘experts’ who, it seems, want to run the whole damn world, from top (governments, social programs) down to bottom, telling each individual what to think, believe, etc. Truth? at best, the psych profession’s “concern” for the poor and working classes under their control is maybe a 21st century, medicalized sort of noblesse oblige…or possibly they want to emulate the more “enlightened” and “humane” slave holders of bygone eras. either way, this is more junk “data” from a pseudoscientific death cult.

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    • the best approach would be to speak the truth…both to power, and in general…and say: late stage capitalism makes people–me included– angry, sad, alienated, and…at times…physically sick. fix it, for the good of the people

      You figured it out!!! This is the crux of everything we discuss here.

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  8. I like this article, thanks for it. Ironically enough, I have been battling issues with depression/anxiety related situations (I am not a chronic sufferer) on and off for the past several months. And in the interim I noticed that I was not taking care of myself, I was not drinking any fluids, I was not eating balanced meals (or any full meals at all). The power of mind and body are real. When you take care of your body, your mind feels better. And vice versa. They go hand in hand and in my opinion, a lot of times along with depression comes neglect of oneself.

    I do not take any medications. And I started making small improvements to my health by making sure I drink water throughout the day. And I’m back to putting foods into my body that are worth something. Not even four days later, I can already feel some peace of mind coming back to me. And for anyone who has experienced any type of depression, you know how great that is. So, I do believe people suffering with these “illnesses” do eat a bit worse than others. I’ve experienced that myself. Like I said. Mind and body go hand in hand.

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    • Also. I would like to add, last year I was put on Zyprexa after an incident took place that resembled a manic episode. I gained 25lbs within one month, and just felt very flat. I had never taken any other medications before, and after only 3 weeks, I knew that medication was terrible. Kind of irritating to see people complaining about it- if you do not approve of the effects, you can always do something about it. I spent a lot of time being angry at the psychiatrist, and realized that at the end of the day- the power is within yourself, no where else. And from that point on, I got off that garbage medicine, and told myself that I’d muster up the courage to deal with my issues myself. After taking the time to properly process, understand, digest and accept my life and all that had taken place in it that saddened me, I realized depression and anxiety barrel down to, man vs. himself. In my opinion depression and anxiety are the the souls way of knocking to let you know, that on a deeper plane, something is wrong. This is why meds do not work and are BS. Everyone is chasing happy, but doesn’t want to do the work that life entails in order to get to it. Sorry but, it’s true. In a material world where faith and belief in something larger than ourselves is lost, it is no wonder mental health has become constantly increasing in numbers. And I’ve seen some dark days in my life- and it’s not until you steer through the darkness that you can even try to see the light. Zyprexa isn’t the devil. And neither are sweets. They are deterrents in this life. It’s up to you to pioneer yourself. While there are many people in the world who have actual mental illness, there are triple the amount there to discredit the real ones with their fake illness. A lot of mental health problems in my age bracket (28) barrel down to being torn between what our parents told us and what we think. Same problem as any other generation. We are just the product of the introduction of the internet- people don’t take the time to think about what life was life before social media. That’s the real poison right there. The internet allowed people to create alternate realities for themselves. No wonder there is such a rise in DID, etc. Funny to me that no one considers this. The internet is finally at an age where we can actually study its effects on human beings. You’d be amazed what having an internet profile does for people. But it’s all an illusion. People neglect their soul and forget to LIVE. My good friend had the perfect life if you looked at her Facebook. All for a year after she got married, after being together 13 years, their marriage fell apart and turned out one of the partners was actually a homosexual.

      Just some food for thought, people.

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      • I understand your points…but consider that most of us have been lied to about what these drugs were doing to us, and for many of us “doing something about it” equaled struggling through years of serious withdrawal, and living with longterm neurological or endocrine effects.

        Also please consider that many of us were drugged as minors. Not so easy for a child to just take charge of a bewildering situation.

        Those of us complaining about the effects of these drugs–we are the messengers.

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  9. My beloved son died at the age of 46 due to the negligence of a psychiatrist who over prescribed Cloziral and Citalopram. The drugs reached a toxic level in his body, which was the cause of his death. A jury of 8 women and 4 men found her guilty of malpractice this past May, 2018. He was diagnosed as having a schizoaffective disorder. Prior to his emotional problems at age 18, he was slim, athletic, and ate a balanced diet. Once he got on the drugs, he eventually gained over 150 lbs. It is the psychiatric drugs that are killing those being diagnosed with mental illness. And the combination of these drugs, called polypharmacy, are especially harmful. The diet theory is misleading. It is not the diet, it is the administration of psychiatric medications that pose the major threat of harm/death to those diagnosed with mental illness. I have written an article on this that appeared in an earlier blog on MIA.

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    • thank you for telling us your side of the story, and also for being a strong voice for your son. Based on my experiences as a “patient/consumer,” standard psychiatric practice -is- malpractice, just as (to steal from Szasz, yet again…) psychiatry -is- a human rights abuse.

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  10. Although I have not read all the comments herein, based on the ones I have read, it seems reasonable to say that readers are missing how this information is PROTECTIVE of people accused of being “mentally ill.”

    Clearly there is a mass of evidence showing how poor diet (as described above) is proven to cause inflammation. Inflammation is understood to be the root cause of most, if not all disease. Inflammation can be reversed and controlled by diet and lifestyle.

    The SYMPTOMS caused by inflammation are NOT diseases in and of themselves. They are simply the bodies innate intelligent warning system, alerting the host that something is wrong and needs to be addressed – not suppress by toxic Allopathic drugs that cure nothing and cause Inflammation which triggers the disease process causing the symptoms being misdiagnosed as if they were “mental illness’s”.

    Evidence shows that there is no credible science supporting the existence of any “MI”.

    So contrary to the claim that this body of evidence “blames the victim”; it is actually highly protective of people fraudulent accused, without evidence, labeled with specious DSM dx’s, drugged and discriminated against as if they are “crazy” people with no legal rights. This, in turn triggers our S-7 Charter right protecting Life, Liberty and the Security of the Person which accused criminals, but not the “MI” enjoy.

    Again and again and again….

    There are 100+ BONA FIDE (real provable medical diseases) called “medical mimics” or as Kelly Brogan recently described them “psychiatric pretenders” the normal sequalea of which, are chronically misdiagnosed as “mental illness’s.

    There are 500+ prescription drugs (and street drugs) known to cause adverse drug events – such as psychosis- that are also misdiagnosed as “MI” not to mention many common life experiences such as being dehydrated, lack of sleep, numerous vitamin deficiencies (nutritional deficiencies) being on a ventilator, being hospitalized (esp for seniors) that ALL cause “mental/emotional” SYMPTOMS that are sloppily labeled as conversion disorders (all in your head).

    Drs are the 3rd leading cause of death in the US behind only heart disease and cancer which Allopathic drugs also cause; their toxic Allopathic drugs taken as prescribed the 4th, not to mention the disease and addition they cause, making drs arguably the leading cause of death.

    It takes an average of 7 yrs to get an accurate dx, (often longer for autoimmune and rare diseases – esp for women who are over-represented as “MI”.) In the meantime, everyone who attends upon any medical or quasi-medical service with any sequalea that requires time and effort to properly dx that comes part and parcel with “emotional/mental” symptoms of the real underlying root cause, is at high risk of being labeled with a fraudulent “MI.”

    This phenomenon explains in part why we have what Whitaker coined the false epidemic of mental illness.
    Some of the false epidemic can be understood as and attributed to trauma and spiritual crisis, but misdiagnosis of bona fide medical conditions explains a great deal of the problem but continues to ignored and omitted from the conversation to our collective detriment.

    Misdiagnosis is medical malpractice and insurance fraud, providing us with yet another avenue to address the DSM as the junk science causing mass harm to the public health and safety.

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    • I tend to agree. Pharmaceutical companies gave abused our trust by pushing the chemical imbalance theory, but that should not preclude us from understanding that there are physical illnesses that can cause cognitive and psychological changes, some of them connected to nutrition.

      I have lived through this myself: I had longterm severe b12 deficiency, which causes neurological damage that affects your mental functioning in a big way. I’m lucky I was finally diagnosed, if not, I would probably be locked in a ward and full of antipsychotics by now.

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