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Mental Health Linked to Changes in Diet

Changes to diets over the last 50 years may be playing a key role in the
rise of mental illness, a study says. Food campaigners Sustain and the
Mental Health Foundation say the way food is now produced has altered the
balance of key nutrients people consume. The period has also seen the UK
population eating less fresh food and more saturated fats and sugars.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4610070.stm
BBC News, Monday, 16 January 2006

Mental health link to diet change

Changes to diets over the last 50 years may be playing a key role in the
rise of mental illness, a study says.

Food campaigners Sustain and the Mental Health Foundation say the way food
is now produced has altered the balance of key nutrients people consume.
The period has also seen the UK population eating less fresh food and more
saturated fats and sugars.

They say this is leading to depression and memory problems, but food experts
say the research is not conclusive.

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 by the nutrients it derives from the foods we eat and how diets
have an impact on our mental health."

And he added that addressing mental health problems with changes in diet was
showing better results in some cases than using drugs or counselling.
The report, Feeding Minds, pointed out the delicate balance of minerals,
vitamins and essential fats consumed had changed in the past five decades.
Researchers said the proliferation of industrialised farming had introduced
pesticides and altered the body fat composition of animals due to the diet
they are now fed.

For example, the report said chickens reach their slaughter weight twice as
fast as they did 30 years ago, increasing the fat content from 2% to 22%.
The diet has also altered the balance of vital fatty acids omega-3 and
omega-6 in chickens which the brain needs to ensure it functions properly.

Fats

In contrast, saturated fats, consumption of which has been increasing with
the boom in ready meals, act to slow down the brain's working process.
The report said people were eating 34% less vegetables and two-thirds less
fish - the main source of omega-3 fatty acids - than they were 50 years ago.
Such changes, the study said, could be linked to depression, schizophrenia,
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer's disease.
The two groups urged people to adopt healthier diets, with more fresh
vegetables, fruit and fish, and called on the government to raise awareness
about the issue.

Report researcher Courtney Van de Weyer said: "The good news is that the
diet for a healthy mind is the same as the diet for a healthy body.

"The bad news is that, unless there is a radical overhaul of food and
farming policies there won't be healthy and nutritious foods available in
the future for people to eat."

Rebecca Foster, a nutrition 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.

"However, the nutrient recommendations outlined in this report are in line
with recommendations for good health, which should continue to be advocated
by all health professionals."

Date: 16-Jan-06