The 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. This evidence suggests that changes to our food system (namely the rise of processed foods, food additives, industrialised farming, pesticides, animal fat, and also declining fish stocks) may be partly responsible for the rise in mental health and behavioural problems. Specific conditions discussed include: ADHD, depression, schizophrenia and dementia (particularly Alzheimer's disease). The roles of specific nutrients are also examined, including 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.
The 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.
An important note on the nature of this report
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
Food & Mental Health
The series of Growing Health case studies provide examples of projects which use food growing in the community to provide health benefit. This study...
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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.