There appears to be no respite in the pace or impact of the growing burden of mental ill-health on us as individuals and as a nation. The UK costs of mental ill-health are now approaching £100 billion a year.
Many explanations have been off ered for this trend – from globalisation and changes in economic stability to changing social trends and diminishing interpersonal networks. Mental health problems are believed to be the result of a combination of factors, including age, genetics and environmental factors.
One of the most obvious, yet under-recognised factors in the development of major trends in mental health is the role of nutrition. The body of evidence linking diet and mental health is growing at a rapid pace. As well as its impact on short and long-term mental health, the evidence indicates that food plays an important contributing role in the development, management and prevention of specifi c mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, attention defi cit hyperactivity disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Increasingly, the links between diet and mental health are gathering support from academic and clinical research communities. Studies have ranged from examining individual responses to diet changes in randomised controlled trials, to population-based cross-cultural comparisons of mental health and food intake.
But the role of diet in the nation’s mental health has yet to be fully understood and embraced, and shifts in policy and practice have been slow to materialise. Possible reasons include a lack of awareness of the evidence, scepticism as to its quality and vested interests in other treatments and approaches.
For decades the prevailing treatment for mental health problems has been medication (and psychotherapy to a lesser extent), and mental health promotion methods have centred around information and education. The treatment implications of research into nutrition and mental health have rarely been acknowledged by mainstream medicine, yet the potential returns are enormous. The mental health promotion implications are also of the utmost importance, and deserve much greater attention.
FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:
For more details of this, and a detailed report from the Mental Health Foundation and Sustain 'Changing Diets, Changing Minds', see also the associated news article:
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