I have taken a keen interest lately in nutrition and mental health after stumbling on some interesting research that suggests that our gut health may play a significant role in our mental health. This study, along with others, is suggesting that gut inflammation may be involved in the pathogenesis (the development) of depression. In the study they make reference to “an increasing number of clinical studies” that have demonstrated that if you treat gastrointestinal inflammation with probiotics, vitamin B and D, and Omega 3 fatty acids that you can lessen the symptoms of depression and improve your quality of life.
Of course, they point out a couple of things; Firstly, we need to do more study to confirm these findings and secondly, they are not suggesting flushing your antidepressants down the toilet or cancelling your next appointment with your counsellor, rather that these supplements may improve the efficacy of the other treatments that we use for depression.
If you ask me, adding some supplements to your diet, particularly Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Probiotics, is not a big risk to take, nor is it a huge cost, particularly when you consider both the cost and the risk with some of the pharmaceuticals we ingest. Even the most sceptical research I could find on Probiotics for instance, in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, stated that, “the evidence base for their use in specific clinical scenarios is strong” and further that, “we found that probiotics are safe for use in otherwise healthy persons.”
As for Omega 3 Fatty Acids, it would seem that it is well established as a safe and effective way to treat or compliment treatment for a whole range of physical and mental health problems. You can read a good summary of the benefits here , andhere too. In terms of mental health, I think that if a number of conservative consultant psychiatrists where I work part-time are using Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplementation then it’s a good indication that it’s credible given that most psychiatrists are quite skeptical about using anything outside of mainstream medicine.
Another exciting thing I learned today is that eating blueberries and strawberries on a regular basis may delay cognitive decline in the older person. In a large, long-term epidemiologic study involving over 16,000 women looking at berry intake over a 20 year period, the researchers suggested that you could slow memory decline by up to two and a half years.
Here’s a quote from their research:
“Berries are particularly high in a subclass of flavonoids called anthocyanidins, which can cross the blood-brain barrier and localize in the hippocampus, known to be an area of the brain involved in learning and memory.
Flavonoids have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and both oxidative stress and inflammation are thought to be important contributors to cognitive impairment. So increased flavonoid consumption could be a potential strategy for reducing cognitive decline in older adults.”
The researchers found that greater intakes of blueberries and strawberries were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline. If that’s the case, then my berry loving 9 year old daughter is going to be sharp as a tack till she is well over 100. Even sceptics who commented on this study and called for (as they should) more research, agreed that, “the study did have its strengths, including the fact that mid-life dietary practices were assessed at the time, not retrospectively, and its inclusion of a very large number of women who had had 3 cognitive assessments.
Again, the risk and the cost are very little and the benefits are potentially far reaching. Unfortunately, us Aussies still don’t seem to be consuming enough fruit and vegetables. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in conducting their 2007-8 surveys on diet found that 90% of Aussie adults still don’t eat enough vegetables and almost 50% still don’t eat enough fruit.
When you stop and consider the potential physical and mental health benefits of simple, safe things like Probiotics and Blueberries, we’d be mad not to consider making them a regular part of our diets, I know I have made them a part of mine.
Here’s to good physical, mental and emotional health.