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Changing Diets, Changing Minds - how food affects mental health and behaviour

Food and mental healthThe report pulls together the published evidence linking what we eat to how we feel – from foetal brain development to adolescent behaviour through to Alzheimer’s disease.

Due to both the quantity and quality of the evidence (epidemiological, physiological and through randomised controlled trials), the report proposes that the changes to the food system seen in the past century may be partly responsible for the rise in mental health and behavioural problems at the same time.

Issues addressed throughout the lifecycle include: preconceptual nutrition; maternal nutrition and foetal development; cognitive advantages of breastfeeding; diet and academic attainment and anti-social behaviour in childhood and adolescence; day-to-day food-related mood changes in adults; and cognitive decline in older people in relation to a life time of diet.

Specific mental diseases discussed include: ADHD, depression, schizophrenia and dementia (particularly Alzheimer’s disease).

This research is then placed in the context of our changing diets – addressing diet and evolution, the agricultural and Industrial revolution and the upheaval of the 20th century (namely processed foods, food additives, industrialised farming, animal fat, declining fish stocks and the increasing use of pesticides). The roles of specific nutrients such as essential fatty acids (omega-3, or fish oils, and omega-6), hydrogenated (or trans) fats and various micronutrients (e.g., selenium, magnesium, iron and vitamin C) are also examined.

The report was researched and written by Sustain project officer Courtney Van de Weyer.


Publication contents

Acknowledgements

An important note on the nature of this report

Foreword

Summary

Introduction

The science of nutrition and the brain

Diet, brain development and mental well being throughout the lifecycle

The role of diet in specific mental health conditions

Changing diets and the implications for our mental health

Conclusion and recommendations

Organisations to contact for more information

References

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