World Mental Health Day – Diet and our Mental Health

In 2017 the WHO reported that depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability. The Centre for Mental Health in the UK estimates that mental health problems cost UK businesses £35 billion or £1,300 per employee. That’s not to mention human cost for the individual and their family. Critically mental health casts a wide net and mental health problems could hit any of us at any stage of life.

There are many factors which determine our health and a number of these such as genetics, ethnicity and socio-economic status are beyond our control. But many of us do have some control over lifestyle factors that can significantly change our risk profile for certain diseases – the best example for this is probably smoking. But equally what we eat can also change our risk profile for certain diseases, red meat, saturated fat immediately spring to mind as does the protective properties of fruit and vegetables.

Links between diet and mental health have also been widely studied. The BBC recently ran a story suggesting that a Mediterranean diet could help in prevent depression. What this study actually, observed was that those who followed a Mediterranean diet appeared to lower their risk of depression (Lassale, 2018). Studies have also been done on specific nutrients such as fatty acids like Omega 3. Scientists are still trying to understand the pathways, but there is some evidence to suggest that EPA fatty acids can help in the treatment of depression (Hallahan, 2016). There is a significant amount of literature that shows a link between the reduction of Omega 3 fatty acids in the Western diet and the increase of depression (Grosso, 2014).

The literature around mental health and diet certainly supports the idea that moving our diet to a more Mediterranean way of eating – plenty of fruit and veg and swapping some red meat for oily fish can offer some protective benefit – as well as tasting great!

These days we find it hard to switch off, to relax not collapse. With busy lifestyles, technology, children and other things distracting us it’s hard to know how to take the best care of ourselves or how to find the time. At times we may feel like we’ve lost our direction or that we are not performing at our best. In these times, we need a meaningful and sustainable plan to get back on track mentally, physically, emotionally and/or spiritually. Not necessarily with enormous goals, but ones we feel excited to put into action.


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