Poor nutrition is contributing to the epidemic of mental illness in western countries like Australia, according to a large body of new research.
Professor of Clinical Psychology Julia Rucklidge from the University of Canterbury has found western diets are often associated with poor mental health, with a Mediterranean diet shows to improve mental health.
“Not a single study has shown that a western diet that is heavily processed, high in refined grains, sugary drinks and takeaways and low in in fresh produce is good for us,” she told guests attending the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists conference in Tauranga, New Zealand.
“A good diet is one your grandmother would recognise – high in fruit and vegetables, fish and healthy fats and low in processed foods and we know that a well-nourished body and brain is better able to withstand ongoing stress and recover from illness.”
Professor Rucklidge’s research found that taking micronutrients could have a positive effect on the symptoms of ADHD, stress, anxiety and mood disorders, leading to her call for a “paradigm shift” where medication is not necessarily the first option for treatment.
She says lifestyle factors should be addressed either first or in association with medication depending on the condition.
“Nutrition really matters and we need to get serious about the critical role nutrition plays in mental health,” she Prof Rucklidge added.
“We are what we eat – how could it be any other way? Every time we put something in our mouths we can choose to offer ourselves something nutritionally deprived or something nourishing.”