Nutrition and Mental Health

Nutrition and Mental Health

As a nutrition and dietetics student I developed an interest in the field of behavioral health nutrition. The idea that nutritional deficiencies or a variety of medical disorders could produce symptoms that mimicked psychiatric abnormalities [1] resonated with me early in my academic exploratations. The links between nutrition and mental health appeared to be a promising new area of investigation. In the past decade, research on the gut microbiome has documented compelling evidence that the bacteria flora in our intestines have a direct link to our brain and that these pathways are bidirectional [2]. As a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) working with patients with co-existing mental health conditions, I have observed an association between diet and depression. Practice experience has shown that dietary improvement can reduce some depressive symptoms [3]. Given that mental illness is a major public health problem, an emerging field known as nutritional psychiatry has received increased attention [4].

There are established links between depression and chronic diseases such as obesity [5], metabolic syndrome [6], and type 2 diabetes [7]. There are also associations between depressive symptoms and inflammatory bowel disease [8], as well as disordered eating [9]. Recent evidence suggests that altering the composition of the gut microbiome can lead to depressive-like behavior in animal models [10]. Because the human microbiome is highly influenced by foods that we eat, there may be an opportunity to improve depressive-like symptoms through dietary interventions. Randomized controlled human trials have shown that nutrition interventions can provide alternative or adjunct treatment for depression in common conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes [11]. The most common dietary recommendation is a Mediterranean-style diet with early trials showing a reduction in depressive symptoms [12,13]. Given the likelihood that nutrition can improve some depression-related symptoms, targeted dietary interventions should be considered a public health priority.

References

  1. Pollak, J., Levy, S., and Breitholz, T., Screening for medical and neurodevelopmental disorders for the professional counselor. Journal of Counseling & Development, 1999. 77(3): p. 35-358.
  2. Evrensel, A., and Ceylan, M.E., The gut-brain axis: the missing link in depression. Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience, 2015. 13(3): p. 239-244.
  3. Li, Y., et al., Dietary patterns and depression risk: a meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 2017. 253: p. 373-382.
  4. Marx, W., et al., Nutritional psychiatry: the present state of the evidence. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 2017. doi:10.1017/S0029665117002026
  5. Garcia-Toro, M., et al., Obesity, metabolic syndrome and Mediterranean diet: impact on depression outcome. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2016. 194: p. 105-108.
  6. Ohmori, Y, et al., Associations between depression and unhealthy behaviors related to metabolic syndrome: a cross sectional study. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2017. 26(1): p. 130-140.
  7. Dipnall, J.F., et al., The association between dietary patterns, diabetes and depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2015. 174: p. 215-224.
  8. Bhandari, S., et al., Association of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and depressive symptoms in the Unites States population and independent predictors of depressive symptoms in an IBD population: a NHANES study. Gut and Liver, 2017. https://doi.org/10.5009/gnl16347
  9. Kim, O. et al., Binge eating disorder and depressive symptoms among females of child-bearing age: the Korea Nurses Health Study. BMC Psychiatry, 2018. 18:13.
  10. Wong, M-L., et al., Inflammasome signaling affects anxiety- and depressive-like behavior and gut microbiome composition. Molecular Psychiatry, 2016. 21: p. 797-805.
  11. O’Neil, A., et al., A randomized, controlled trial of a dietary intervention for adults with major depression (the “SMILES” trial): study protocol. BMC Psychiatry, 2013. 13:114.
  12. Parletta, N., et al., A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: a randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED). Nutritional Neuroscience, 2017. doi:10.1080/1028415X.2017.1411320
  13. Sanchez-Villegas, A., et al., Mediterranean dietary pattern and depression: the PREDIMED randomized trial. BMC Medicine, 2013. 11:208

 

Nutrition and Mental Health

About the author: David A. Wiss
David A. Wiss
David Wiss, MS, RDN is the founder of Nutrition in Recovery, which specializes in: Addictions, Eating Disorders, Mental Health, Body Image, and General Wellness. Mr. Wiss works closely with individuals to help them revolutionize their relationship with food and has shared his expertise with numerous eating disorder and addiction facilities throughout the greater Los Angeles area. David is a nationally recognized expert in nutrition for addiction and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Public Health from UCLA.