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Food & Mental Health
2006 archive


October 2006

Policy

Following her comments on the connection between food and mental well being, we wrote to Rosie Winterton, the Minister of State for Health Services, requesting a meeting to discuss the issue and the related policy issues. We were pleased that she accepted our request, and we have now arranged a meeting in January. We will let you know the outcome.

The new EU regulation on health claims on food came into force last week, and member countries have twelve months to compile a list of approved claims. The Food Standards Agency has requested that food companies now begin submitting applications for the claims that they wish to have included - "To be eligible for consideration, the claim must be based on generally accepted science and relate to the role of a nutrient or other substance in growth, development and functions of the body, psychological and behavioural functions, or slimming and weight control." It will certainly be interesting to see what happens for claims relating to omega-3 and cognitive health, of which there will inevitably be submissions...http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2006/oct/healthclaimlist

The responses to the open consultation on the European Commission’s Green Paper on mental health are now available online.Visit http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/life_style/mental/green_paper/mentalgp_contributions_en.htm to view the responses, including one from Sustain about the importance of diet to mental health. 

Research 

A Norwegian study has highlighted a correlation between sugar intake and teenager hyperactivity and mental and behavioural disorders - see this link. New research funded by the Medical Research Council casts doubt on the cognitive benefits of breastfeeding - http://www.mrc.ac.uk/NewsViewsAndEvents/News/MRC003331 . There have been a number of rapid responses on the BMJ site which you might find interesting - http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/eletters/bmj.38978.699583.55v1?ehom
 
A study has found that chronically elevated blood sugar can increase the risk of developing dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI). 1,983 elderly women were studied over four years - those with higher blood sugar levels were four times as likely to develop dementia or MCI - see the press release here: http://pub.ucsf.edu/newsservices/releases/200608091/
 
A study published in this month's Neurology has found an association between body mass index and cognitive function. 2,223 healthy men and women in France aged 32 to 62 took part in the study - those with a higher BMI tended to have a higher decline in mental abilities five years later.http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/abstract/67/7/1208
 
New research supports the theory that the Mediterranean diet protects again Alzheimer's disease - http://archneur.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/63.12.noc60109 .  A Swedish study published in the same journal found that supplements of omega-3 fatty acids may slow mental decline in people with very mild Alzheimer's disease, but have no impact on people with more advanced forms -http://archneur.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/63/10/1402

News

A report of the work in a Cotswold school with fish oils was reported in the Guardian, accompanied by the concern of the marketing nature of some of these "trials" - http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,1920302,00.html. You can read a lot more about the criticisms on the Bad Science website - http://www.badscience.net/?p=297#more-297.

The Guardian also had a large piece about diet and behavioural research in prisons, with a front page article highlighting the obstruction of the Home Office in the attempts to replicate the Aylesbury study - http://www.guardian.co.uk/food/Story/0,,1924088,00.html and http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,,1924354,00.html

 

September

As an update of our Big Lottery bid on food and mental health projects, we are having an "assessment" meeting next Tuesday in Newcastle with the Big Lottery. We still hope to find out whether or not we have got through the first round in November, and will keep you updated with whatever happens.  

News

Following the release of a study showing that a pint of organic milk has on average 68% more omega 3 fatty acids than conventional milk, a group of scientists wrote to the Food Standards Agency requesting that it declare organic milk to be healthier. Having evaluated the study, the FSA has responded in its fashion - "whilst this study shows that organically produced milk can contain higher levels of types of fats called short-chain omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced milk, the evidence suggests that these fatty acids appear to be of limited health benefit compared to the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish...therefore, organic milk consumed in volumes consistent with a healthy diet, would not provide sufficient amounts of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to provide significant health benefits, over and above those associated with conventional milk." See: http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2006/sep/organicmilkresponse
 
An open letter from a large number of academics and children experts was submitted to the Telegraph expressing concern about the escalation of depression and behavioural problems amongst children. Junk food was singled out as a contributor - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/09/12/njunk112.xml
 
Sustain's recently expanded Hospital Food Project, now called Good Food on the Public Plate to take account of its work in other public bodies apart from hospitals, is continuing to work with the South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust (SLaM) - the largest mental health trust in the UK - to increase the amount of local and sustainable food for its patients. Organic milk is being served and a central production unit, to improve food quality, is being pursued - see http://www.sustainweb.org/page.php?id=83 for more information.

Research

5000 students across County Durham are going to be given fish oil supplements in a bid to improve their GCSE grades. The announcement of the "trial", which contains no control group, has provoked a good deal of criticism regarding its lack of scientific rigour. See - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/health/healthmain.html?in_article_id=403803&in_page_id=1774&in_a_source=; http://education.guardian.co.uk/gcses/story/0,,1869977,00.html and http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/badscience/story/0,,1868532,00.html
 
The British Nutrition Foundation released a new briefing paper on "The health effects of dietary unsaturated fatty acids". At the launch event, new research from the University of Bristol was presented which found no benefit of EPA and DHA intake on depressed mood or cognitive function. The research has yet to be published, but please get in touch if you would like more information. 

Events

The McCarrison Society and the Letten Mother and Child Foundations' "Neuroscience, epigenetics, maternal nutrition, HIV and its origin in Africa" will take place 22-24 October in London. Contact Catherine Lehane at mcflehane@aol.com or on 0207 133 2926 for more information.
 
The World Federation for Mental Health's "Fourth World Conference on Promotion of Mental Health and the Prevention of Mental and Behavioural Disorders" will take place on 11-13 October in Oslo. The theme for the 2006 Conference is ‘Developing Resilience and Strength Across the Lifespan’.  Further information can be found on the conference website http://www.worldconference2006.no/

 The Media Action Group for Mental Health's conferenece "Food for Thought: Nutrition & Mental Well-being" will take place on 9 November in Stoke-on-Trent. There are a limited number of free places available for service users. Call 01782 285 800 or email conference@magmh.org.uk for further information and booking forms.

"Diet and Depression - Conference on Nutritional Interventions for Tackling Depression" will take place on 6 December in Manchester.   For further information call 0870 890 1080, email info@pavpub.com or log onto http://www.pavpub.com/

Practice

The Food and Mood Project has launched a number of new tools for those using dietary self-help to improve their mental health.The Food and Mood Action Plan Dialler and the Food and Mood Self Help Pack are both available from its website - http://www.foodandmood.org/ 
 

August

Following our consultation with yourselves and a large number of stakeholders, Sustain has now submitted a lead bid to the Big Lottery for the Wellbeing Programme. Combining the three themes of Mental Health, Healthy Eating and Physical Activity, the bid concentrates (broadly) on providing growing and other food-related schemes to assist in the recovery from mental health problems. We find out if we got through to the second round at some point in November - and will be sure to keep you updated.

News and Research 

The Food Standards Agency released its "Systematic review of the effect of nutrition, diet and dietary change on learning, education and performance of children of relevance to UK schools". Overall, it found the evidence inconclusive. The prospect of every child receiving fish oil supplements (the headlines apparently the work of a journalist's overactive imagination) seems pretty unlikely...you can read the review here: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/systemreview.pdf
 
Last month, the Alzheimer's Association's 10th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorder presented research on the connection between diet, physical activity and Alzheimer's disease: "Data presented at ICAD strongly support previous findings that suggest that mid-life physical activity and diet effect an individual’s intellectual performance as well as their risk of developing cognitive impairments and Alzheimer’s later in life. One study discovered links between brain function and cardiovascular risk factors even in young to middle aged adults." See full details at http://www.alz.org/icad/newsreleases/071806_noon_riskfactorstwo.asp
 
The conference also presented finding regarding the connection between type-2 diabetes and Alzheimer's - http://www.alz.org/icad/newsreleases/071606_noon_diabtesandad.asp
 
New research suggests exposure to pesticides may cause brain diseases such as Alzheimer's - http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2006/07/27/pesticidestudy/
 
Researchers writing in the Irish Journal of Medical Science have raised concerns about low levels of iodine of pregnant Irish women, warning that low intake could harm the neuropsychological development of their unborn foetus, affecting the intelligence quotient (IQ) of their children and the incidence of ADHD. Their research showed that dietary intake of iodine by Irish women is significantly less than the level recommended by the World Health Organisation - http://www.ucd.ie/conway/news_182.html
 
Babies and toddlers of California farmworkers exposed to the insecticide DDT have neurological effects that are severe enough in some cases to slow their mental and physical development, according to research by UC Berkeley scientists.
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-ddt5jul05,0,5641738.story
 
 
Policy
 
The Department of Health has just released best practice guidance for improving the physical health of people with severe mental illness. Interestingly, the Health Minister, Rosie Winterton now seems to accept the links between diet and mental health -  "We know that people with severe mental health problems are more likely to die prematurely because of poor physical health, and we also know that physical activity and a balanced diet can help to maintain and protect people's mental well-being." The commissioning framework can be found http://www.dh.gov.uk/
Thank you to those of you who submitted comments on our response to the NICE dementia consultation. All of the comments were incorporated and the response submitted at the end of last month. The anticipated publication date is December 2006 - http://www.nice.org.uk/page.aspx?o=315284
 
Events
 
The Health Promotion Agency and the Northern Ireland Prison Service are holding a conference aimed at raising awareness of prison health issues. Promoting Healthy Prisons will take place on 12 September in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. The conference is free of charge - http://www.cdhn.org/news/viewdetails.asp?newsID=464
 
The conference, The Health Effects of Unsaturated Fatty Acids, will be held on Thursday 14th September 2006 at the Institute of Physics, in London to launch a new British Nutrition Foundation publication.  For further details, go to:
http://www.nutrition.org.uk/home.asp?siteId=43&sectionId=1299&parentSection=302&which=4
 
FAB Research is running a one day conference on 29 September - Diet, Behaviour and the Junk Food Generation will be held at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. Visit http://www.fabresearch.org/view_item.aspx?item_id=954&list_id=list1-100&list_index=0 for more information and to book.
 
The 2006 International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organisation's (IFFO) Annual Conference will take place from 23rd-26th October in Barcelona. Interestingly, the theme of this year's conference is "Sustainable Business Development" - visit http://www.iffo.net/ for details.


 
June

News
The Advertising Standards Agency has upheld a number of complaints regarding St Ivel's "Clever Milk" advertising. Fronted by Robert Winston, the fish-oil supplemented milk has been advertised as a way of getting more omega-3 into children, helping them to "unlock their potential". Brought by two members of the public and Equazen, the supplement company that has sponsored studies on omega-3's effect on children's behaviour, the complaints alleged that the ads were misleading and offered false expectations. Children would have to drink five litres of the milk to get the same amount of omega-3 used in the studies upon which St Ivel based its claims. You can read the judgement here: http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/non_broadcast/Adjudication+Details.htm?Adjudication_id=41426
 
A secondary school in Glasgow has announced that it will provide free breakfasts of fruit, cereal and yoghurt for pupils between 12 and 18, in a bid to improve their concentration during the school day. Although breakfast clubs are quite common in primary schools, they are less so in secondary, and normally concerned with issues of hunger. http://news.scotsman.com/glasgow.cfm?id=819132006
 
Dr Alex Richardson has released a new book on food and children's mental well being and behaviour. Released on 19 June, They Are What You Feed Them is published by Harper Thorson, with all of the author's royalties being donated to FAB Research (http://www.fabresearch.org/). Visit http://www.theyarewhatyoufeedthem.com/.
 
Food Standards Agency Review
The FSA widely announced its systematic review of research looking at the effect of nutrition and diet on performance and behaviour of children in schools, specifically the studies on omega-3 and omega-6. As part of the announcement, the FSA said that other government bodies should take on board the results of the review in making decisions about food in schools - "Although the review was not commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), both it and the School Food Trust, plus the education departments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, may wish to consider any future implications of the findings in relation to food served in school." The FSA will publish the results when it has completed the review - http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2006/jun/dietbehaviour
 
Alan Johnson, the education secretary, confirmed that his department would examine the FSA's finding "with interest" - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2220938,00.html
 
A related article from The Independent has been published on the FAB Research website, along with important commentary from some of the major studies' main researcher - http://www.fabresearch.org/view_item.aspx?item_id=956
 
Sustainabilty

The Guardian recently published an article by George Monbiot on the government's interest in omega-3 supplementation and the implication for fish stocks - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1801712,00.html
 
At the same time, a new fish-free omega-3 supplement has been released that offers DHA and EPA derived solely from algae -  www.water4.net/index.htm
 
 
Research

The June issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry has three articles on omega-3 and mental health:
• Gordon Parker, Neville A. Gibson, Heather Brotchie, Gabriella Heruc, Anne-Marie Rees, and Dusan Hadzi-Pavlovic Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mood Disorders American Journal of Psychiatry 2006 163: 969-978.
• Hanah Nemets, Boris Nemets, Alan Apter, Ziva Bracha, and R.H. Belmaker Omega-3 Treatment of Childhood Depression: A Controlled, Double-Blind Pilot Study American Journal of Psychiatry 2006 163: 1098-1100.
• M. Elizabeth Sublette, Joseph R. Hibbeln, Hanga Galfalvy, Maria A. Oquendo, and J. John Mann Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Essential Fatty Acid Status as a Predictor of Future Suicide Risk American Journal of Psychiatry 2006 163: 1100-1102.
A small research project announced that supplementing GCSE students with fish oil supplements led to a dramatic improvement in test results - http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-5820699,00.html
 
Events
The Young Minds Annual Conference is taking place on 12 July in London. A seminar is being dedicated to Nutrition and Mental Health, to be run by representatives from the Mental Health Foundation, the School Food Trust and Sustain. For more information, visit www.neilstewartassociates.com/kd142/
 
FAB Research is running a a one day conference on 29 September - Diet, Behaviour and the Junk Food Generation will be held at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. Visit http://www.fabresearch.org/view_item.aspx?item_id=954&list_id=list1-100&list_index=0 for more information and to book.
 
Policy
Information on the NICE consultation on Dementia guidelines is now online and there are a number of mentions of dietary factors under the information on risk factors. If you are planning to respond to the consultation - the deadline is 18 July - please let us know. To view the draft, visit http://www.nice.org.uk/page.aspx?o=315284
 
 
Reminder - Sustain is hosting a meeting next week to discuss projects for the Big Lottery Well-being Bid, to concentrate mostly on healthy eating and growing projects for those with mental health and behavioural problems. I will be forwarding the details again soon to provide more information. 
 


May


Research
 
New research has been published which shows the benefits of the Mediterranean diet to Alzheimer's disease. The study, published in the Annals of Neurology on 18 April, followed 2,258 elderly New Yorkers for four years. The researchers found that higher adherence to the Med diet was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16622828&query_hl=4&itool=pubmed_docsum
 
It is now been announced that the Aylesbury study is to be replicated -  Young offenders at Polmont Young Offenders' Institute, near Falkirk, are to be given vitamin pills in a bid to control their behaviour after the Scottish Prison Service agreed to a £2m study by scientists from Oxford University... http://news.scotsman.com/health.cfm?id=644742006http://www.naturaljustice.org/
 
Industry
 
Blue Smarties will be a thing of the past as Nestle plans to remove all artificial colours from the sweet's casings by June. Spurred on by the research out of Liverpool University on the possible harmful cocktail effect on the nervous system of artificial colours and chemicals, the company has announced it will be axing Brilliant Blue (E133); Quinoline Yellow (E104); Sunset Yellow (E110); Ponceau 4R (E124); and Carmoisine (E122).
http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/pages/live/articles/health/healthmain.html?in_article_id=385455&in_page_id=1774
 
A new brand of milk has been released in Canada that claims to contain higher levels of 'naturally occurring' DHA than other milks. The higher levels reportedly come from a specially formulated diet that the cows are given (as opposed to the fish oil that is added to a similar product in the UK). Neilson Dairy has released the product under the brand Oh! Lait - a 250 ml serving contains 20 mg of DHA. http://www.dairy-oh.com/index.htm
 
Press

 
George Monbiot had a recent article in the Guardian about the connection between diet and criminal behaviour, bringing in the issue about funding of this area of research. He also has interestingly weaved in the issue of Ofcom's recent meetings with the food industry, a central issue to another of Sustain's projects, The Children's Food Bill Campaign (www.sustainweb.org/child_index.asp). You can read the article here: www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1765302,00.html
 
The May/June issue of Young Minds Magazine focuses on the link between food and mental health. It has also included an article by this project on the funding issues surrounding the area, a result of previous discussions amongst this group .Some of the magazine is available online, but that particular article is not - please let me know if you would like to read it. For more detail, visit http://www.http//www.youngminds.org.uk/
 
Policy
 
An Early Day Motion on the importance of essential trace minerals, particularly selenium, has been introduced by David Drew MP. So far the motion has been signed by 40 MPs. EDM 1954 reads:
That this House notes the importance of a healthy diet which requires essential trace minerals; further notes evidence that suggests a depletion of minerals in British soils; further notes that the Cancer Research Campaign is funding a long-term trial into the prevention of cancer by the use of selenium food supplements, a mineral depleted in most British soils; and therefore calls upon the Government to initiate research into increasing selenium levels in fruit and vegetables by adding the mineral to British soils, into the importance of other trace minerals in maintaining good health and into whether growing food on mineral rich soil is the best way to incorporate essential trace minerals into the British diet. http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=30436&SESSION=875
 
The NICE consultation on the Dementia guideline will take place between 16 May and 11 July 2006. Details will be available on the NICE website (http://www.nice.org.uk/) as of the 16 May. Sustain will most likely be submitting a response, so I will be sending that to you for your comments when we have drafted it.
 

 

April

Consultations:
• The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recently launched its new consultation on ADHD. Much to our delight (and, admittedly, surprise), it will be examining the evidence on dietary factors. The intitial phase on the draft scope of the consultation has now finished, and the scope should be released soon. Presently, we are waiting to hear whether a representative from the Hyperactive Children's Support Group (HACSG) will be chosen to sit on Guideline Development Committee. Both the HACSG and ourselves nominated the same person, so we are hopeful that the nomination will be successful. The next phase will be the submission of evidence. Sustain are registered stakeholders, so we will be coordinating a detailed responss -  more details will be sent out once the next phase has begun. Visit http://www.nice.org.uk/page.aspx?o=207034 for the related papers and details.  
• A Green Paper has been released by the European Commission on mental health in the European Union. Its purpose is to consult on the need for an EU-wide strategy on mental health, and is requesting responses by 31 May. I have attached the Sustain response here - please take a look and let me know if you have any comments, or are planning to respond as well. You can find details of the consultation at http://europa.eu.int/comm/health/ph_determinants/life_style/mental_health_en.htm
Research:
• The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has released details of a study, Cognitive Function, emotional well being and dietary factors in the Caerphilly cohort of older men. Data collected over 25 years as part of the Caerphilly Collaborative Cohort Study (2,500 men aged 45-59 years at baseline) examined the associations between dietary factors and cognitive function and emotional wellbeing. A key finding was that men who had been breast-fed as infants and whose birth weight was below the median had significantly higher test results in certain aspects of cognitive function compared with men who had been formula fed. Contact Mamta Singh at the FSA on 020 7276 8778 for further information
• There are currently a number of schools around the UK that are supplementing their pupils with fish oils, looking at whether it might improve behaviour or academic ability. Most of these appear to be supplementing children or adolescents with behavioural or learning problems, but one has already found improved GCSE results in typical students. The schools include Fleetwood Sports College in Lancashire, Greenfield Community Arts College in Newton County Durham, Eaton Hall Special School in Norwich and the Cotswold Community School in Swindon.
• Research is being undertaken at the University of Reading on The Implications of a Nutrition Driven Food Policy for Land Use and the Rural Environment - this will include testing whether more "biologically diverse pastures" for cattle will enhance the higher levels of n-3 fats commonly seen in grass-fed animals, when compared with those fed concentrated animal feed. Contact Professor Bruce Traill at the University of Reading, w.b.traill@reading.ac.uk for further detail.
• Researchers at a number of Canadian universities have recently begun collaborating on a RCT of 508 people, testing the effects of EPA on depression. Some of the patients will not be receiving any other treatment and the dosage will be 1,050 mg per day of EPA, against a sunflower oil placebo. Researchers are based at the University of Montreal and McGill University, as well as Laval University in Quebec and Queen's University in Ontario. Results are expected in September 2007. Dr. Francois Lesperance, head of psychiatry at University of Montreal's Centre hospitalier, appears to be the head reseacher - francois.lesperance@umontreal.ca

News:
• The Big Lottery has just released its newest programme, Well-being. The three strands of the programme are physical activity, healthy eating and mental health - and any application will need to cross over at least two of these strands. Now that it has been released, Sustain is currently exploring project options and meeting with potential portfolio partners. I will let you know how we progress. However, we would be very interested to hear about any projects you might be involved with, or just any ideas you might have. You can find out more at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/programmes/well_being/index.htm
• Following the March recall of some Seven Seas' cod liver oils, due to the presence of dioxins, Boots has also just withdrawn two batches of its Super Strength Fish Oil capsules. See http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2006/apr/bootsfishoil for more information.
• The Soil Association, Marine Stewardship Council, Waitrose and Aquascot have just launched a partnership to develop sustainable sources of fish mean and fish oil for organic farmed fish. See www.soilassociation.org/aquaculture2006 for more information.

Events:
• Diet and Depression: A National Conference on Nutritional Interventions for Tackling Depression will take place on 15 June in London. The conference will "focus on the latest research into effects of diet and environment on mild to moderate depression, and provides practical solutions by leading award-winning clinicians on how to manage symptoms within an integrated, holistic framework". Visit http://www.pavpub.com/ for more information and to book.