New research argues that that the future of psychiatry should embrace nutrition as essential to maintaining better mental health and quality of life. [Photo: Bigstock]

Balanced diet essential for mental health

16 June, 2015

Natural Health News — New research highlights the role that nutrition play sin maintaining good mental health

The scientific review made by members of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR) highlights the the importance of nutritional medicine, and, says Vicent Balanzá, also a psychiatrist at La Fe University Hospital, and one of the authors of the paper,  “it has been proven that the quality of diet and the deficiencies in certain essential nutrients are determining factors for physical and mental health.”

In fact, he adds, nutrition “has become a key factor for the high prevalence and incidence of very frequent mental diseases, such as depression. A balanced diet is as important in psychiatry as it is in other medical specialties such as cardiology or endocrinology.”

What you need to know

»A large review has shown that a Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of depression.

» Key elements protective found in this diet include: omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, essential amino acids, B-group vitamins (B12 and folate), vitamin D and minerals like zinc, magnesium and iron.

» Other traditional diets also include these elements.

ISNPR is a scientific society founded in 2013 to promote high-quality scientific research on the prevention and treatment of psychiatric disorders by means of nutritional interventions.

A broad approach to mental health

With this paper in The Lancet Psychiatry,the world’s experts in nutritional psychiatry propose a debate on the growing role of diet in psychiatry and mental health. “At the population level, we had scientific evidence that Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cognitive impairment. Now we also know that it reduces the risk of depression.” stresses  Balanzá.

He noes also that causes and development of of mental illnesses is extremely complex and, therefore, its treatment must be just as wide ranging. “Expecting that anyone with mental health problems would recover only with medicines is a very limited view of reality. In our article we argue that the future of psychiatry requires a broader approach in which nutritional factors are essential in order to provide better health outcomes, functioning and quality of life.”

Traditional diets fit the bill

The human brain needs an adequate intake of key nutrients, such as omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids , essential amino acids, B-group vitamins (B12 and folate), vitamin D and minerals like zinc, magnesium and iron. Many of these nutrients are found naturally  in the Mediterranean diet, which says Balanzá is a good reason to preserve what he calls “a cultural – and wholesome – treasure”.

While studies in this area are few, there is other evidence to show that unhealthy eating habits over a lifetime do contribute to the risk of depression. These unhealthy eating habits are common in  the Western Pattern Diet which is high in unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates. The researchers highlight the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, but the diets of many traditional cultures – Inuit, Japanese, Nordic, and paleo diets for example also combine many of the same healthy elements.