Evidence is rapidly growing showing important relationships between both diet quality and potential nutritional deficiencies and mental health, a new report from the University of Melbourne and Deakin University has revealed.
Published in The Lancet Psychiatry today, leading academics state that psychiatry and public health should now recognize and embrace diet and nutrition as key determinants of mental health. Experts contend the emerging and compelling evidence for nutrition as a key factor in the high prevalence and incidence of mental disorders suggests that nutrition is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology and gastroenterology.
In the last few years, significant links have been established between nutritional quality and mental health.
Findings of the review revealed that in addition to dietary improvement, evidence now supports the contention that nutrient-based prescription has the potential to assist in the management of mental disorders.
Studies show that many nutrients have a clear link to brain health, including omega-3s, B vitamins (particularly folate and B12), choline, iron, zinc, magnesium, S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), vitamin D and amino acids.
"While we advocate for these to be consumed in the diet where possible, additional select prescription of these as nutrient supplements may also be justified," the researchers said.
Many studies have shown associations between healthy dietary patterns and a reduced prevalence of and risk for depression and suicide across cultures and age groups.
Maternal and early-life nutrition is also emerging as a factor in mental health outcomes in children, while severe deficiencies in some essential nutrients during critical developmental periods have long been implicated in the development of both depressive and psychotic disorders.
A systematic review published in late 2014 has also confirmed a relationship between 'unhealthy' dietary patterns and poorer mental health in children and adolescents. Given the early age of onset for depression and anxiety, these data point to dietary improvement as a way of preventing the initial incidence of common mental disorders.
The researchers believe it is time to advocate for a more integrative approach to psychiatry, with diet and nutrition as key elements.
Source: The Lancet Psychiatry, January 2015.
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