The Intersections of Nutrition and Mental Ill Health

Social and biological sciences have provided insight into the role of risk and protective factors in the development of poor mental health and diet as a modifiable target for prevention and mental health promotion (Figure 10.2). Research suggests that mental health conditions are associated with neurotransmitter imbalances, hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) disturbances, dysregulated inflammatory pathways, microbiome imbalance, increased oxidative and nitrosative damage, neuroprogression, and mitochondrial disruptions (Berk et al. 2013; Lopresti et al. 2012; Maes

Schematic relationships between diet and mental health

FIGURE 10.2 Schematic relationships between diet and mental health. (From J.S. Grigoleit et al., PLoS One, 6(12):e28330, 2011; S. Romero et al., J Clin Psychiatry, 70(10), 1452-1460, 2009; M. Berk et al., BMC Med, 12, 200, 2013.) et al. 2013), and all of these pathways require enzymes and coenzymes that are derived from nutrients. Nutrients commonly associated with mental health include polyunsaturated fatty acids (particularly the omega-3 types), minerals such as zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, and iron, B vitamins such as folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and vitamin D (Kaplan et al. 2007; Maddock et al. 2013). Researchers have also explored the relationship between intakes of specific food groups (e.g., fruits, vegetables, fish, milk, and red meat) and dietary patterns (e.g., vegetarian and traditional diets) that may impact on mental health. While most of the evidence draws on the use of heterogeneous measures of diet and mental health from observational studies and does not always control for confounders such as education, general health consciousness, activity, and affluence, the findings seem relatively consistent and compelling. Figure 10.2 shows the relationship between diet and mental health.

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