While hypotheses have been synthesized regarding the power of nutrition on an individual’s mental health, clear evidence outlining the power of what some refer to as ‘nutritional psychiatry’ is largely unknown. In a recent randomized clinical trial, a team of researchers sought out to investigate “the efficacy of a dietary improvement program for the treatment of major depressive episodes.”
67 individuals were enrolled in a nutritional counseling program that emphasized healthier eating habits, including foods consisting of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, low-fat, unsweetened dairy, raw and unsalted nuts, fish, lean red meats, chicken, eggs and olive oils. It’s important to note, however, that most individuals enrolled in this program were not eating traditionally ‘healthy’ foods to begin with, and their significant reduction in depressive symptoms may not be reflected in an individual who does already eat a relatively healthy diet. On that same note, the mechanism by which introducing these foods on reducing depressive symptoms have been clearly identified, so one should tread cautiously when glorifying the specific foods or nutritional counseling introduced in this study until future research teases this mechanism out more vividly.
It is an impressive finding, however, and will undoubtedly contribute to future studies seeking to bridge the gap between psychiatry and nutrition. This study - among others - helps us clarify the interconnectedness of nutrition, mental health and wellbeing, and our physical health. The premise that everything we put into our bodies affects our physical shape and biological capacity to live well in addition to potentially mediating factors that affect our mental health is reasons for a change in dietary behavior, more than ever before. Not sure where to start with changing these behaviors? Let's get in contact!
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Justin writes about ways to optimize your health and well-being by cultivating resiliency and self-compassion through sustainable movement and exercise habits that lift you and those around you up..