Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 5th 2014 Contents A26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, April 5, 2014
Should the Hippocratic maxim "Let food be thy
medicine" apply to mental health care? Absolutely,
says Dr Bonnie Kaplan, a professor at the University
of Calgary and a pioneer in a resurgent field of
research on the role diet and nutrition plays in the
health of the brain.
She says the medical and psychiatric community
is rediscovering the many connections between food
and mental illness after more than a half century of
depending primarily on prescription drugs for relief.
"From around 1950 or so, there was an explosion
of research on medications," she says. "Big pharma
took over the treatment of psychiatric illnesses, and
we lost centuries of knowledge."
Before that, we knew better. Kaplan points to the
1855 edition of The People s Home Library---a standard
on the bookshelves of homesteaders across North
America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In it, author TJ Ritter
diagnoses the cause
of most psychiatric
tion." Ritter asserted
that for most people,
improving one s diet
could help improve one s mind.
But 20th century mental health care providers too
often missed the point Ritter---and Hippocrates long
before him---were making, Kaplan says, by treating
the mentally ill with supplements of one nutrient or
mineral at a time.
"They were seeing mixed results, because that s
just ridiculous," she says. "We need [the nutrients]
all together in proper balance."
We may soon see psychiatrists prescribing produce
rather than Prozac, however, thanks to a fairly recent
body of academic research showing food s powerful
effect on mental health. Kaplan has been a leader
in this area, publishing several studies linking nutrient
intake with improvement in mood disorders in both
adults and children. In a 2012 study with colleague
Karen M Davison, PhD, RD, published in the Canadian
Journal of Psychiatry, the authors recruited 97 adults
diagnosed with a mood disorder to record their diets
and moods (how they felt throughout each day) over
a three-day period. At the end of the study, Kaplan
and Davison found that participants vitamin and
nutrient intake was "consistently and reliably" asso-
ciated with better moods and mental health.
Other studies have shown similar results and even
pinpointed specific diets that appear to be associated
with a healthier brain. Epidemiological studies, for
instance, have linked a Mediterranean diet of mostly
vegetables, fruits, nuts, and plenty of olive oil with
better brain function. But the diet of good mental
health doesn t start and end with rabbit food. In a
2011 analysis of more than 5,000 Norwegians, Michael
Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University
School of Medicine in Australia, and his collaborators
found lower rates of depression, anxiety, and bipolar
disorder among those who consumed a traditional
diet of meat and vegetables than among people who
followed a modern diet heavy with processed and
fast foods---or even a health-food diet of tofu and
"Traditional diets---the kinds of foods your grand-
mother would have recognised---have been associated
with a lower risk of mental health issues," Berk told
The Washington Post.
Let s be real, though: A holistic approach to mental
health care is necessary, and there are times when
those living with various disorders need a pill (or
three) alongside a plate of whole foods. But with a
new, strong body of research in her corner and even
a newly formed international research society, Kaplan
dreams of a day when we ve restored a proper balance
between medical and nutritional mental health care---
Food's powerful effect
on mental health
something Hippocrates would more easily recognise.
"In my ideal world, diet and nutrition is the primary
treatment," she says. "And medication is used as
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
We may soon see
rather than Prozac.
Studies have linked a Mediterranean diet of mostly vegetables, fruits, nuts, and
plenty of olive oil with better brain function.
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