Possible diet link to mental health

New reports published by the Mental Health Foundation and Sustain suggest that modern diets may be playing an important role in the rise of mental illness.

The reports, Feeding Minds and Changing Diets, Changing Minds, suggest that changes in diets over the past 50 years have led to the UK population eating less fresh food and more saturated fats. People are now eating 34 per cent less vegetables and up to two-thirds less fish than they were 50 years ago which could be having an adverse affect on mental health.

Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We are well aware of the effect of diet upon our physical health. But we are only just beginning to understand how the brain as an organ is influenced buy the nutrients it derives from the foods we eat and how diets have an impact on our mental health.”

The research shows that depression has been linked with low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids, such as those in fish, and that there is epidemiological evidence that shows people with schizophrenia have lower levers of polyunsaturated fatty acids – although food experts say the research is not conclusive.

Rebecca Foster, a nutritional scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, said: “The evidence associating mental health and nutrient intake is in its infancy, this is a very difficult association to research and in many cases results are subjective. Therefore, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the association between mental illness and dietary intake at this point.”

For more information about the reports, go to: The Mental Health Foundation Website