Can What We Eat Affect How We Feel ?

Can What We Eat Affect How We Feel?

This is part one of a series in the NYT, 2020 is very much the year of health on this blog, so I’ll keep the advise coming …

Nutritional psychiatrists prescribe antidepressants and other medications, where appropriate, and engage in talk therapy and other traditional forms of counseling. But they argue that fresh and nutritious food can be a potent addition to the mix of available therapies. Americans routinely change what they eat in order to lose weight, control their blood sugar levels and lower artery-clogging cholesterol. But experts say it is still rare for people to pay attention to the food needs of the most complex and energy-consuming organ in the body, the human brain

Nutritional psychiatrists counsel patients on how better eating may be another tool in helping to ease depression and anxiety and may lead to better mental health.

The patient, a 48-year-old real estate professional in treatment for anxiety and mild depression, revealed that he had eaten three dozen oysters over the weekend.

His psychiatrist, Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, was impressed: “You’re the only person I’ve prescribed them to who came back and said he ate 36!”

Dr. Ramsey, the author of several books that address food and mental health, is a big fan of oysters. They are rich in vitamin B12, he said, which studies suggest may help to reduce brain shrinkage. They are also well stocked with long chain omega-3 fatty acids, deficiencies of which have been linked to higher risk for suicide and depression.

But shellfish are not the only food he is enthusiastic about. Dr. Ramsey is a pioneer in the field of nutritional psychiatry, which attempts to apply what science is learning about the impact of nutrition on the brain and mental health.

Dr. Ramsey argues that a poor diet is a major factor contributing to the epidemic of depression, which is the top driver of disability for Americans aged 15 to 44, according to a report by the World Health Organization. Together with Samantha Elkrief, a chef and food coach who sits in on many of his patient sessions, he often counsels patients on how better eating may lead to better mental health.

The irony, he says, is that most Americans are overfed in calories yet starved of the vital array of micronutrients that our brains need, many of which are found in common plant foods. A survey published in 2017 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that only one in 10 adults meets the minimal daily federal recommendations for fruit and vegetables — at least one-and-a-half to two cups per day of fruit and two to three cups per day of vegetables.

Nutritional psychiatrists like Dr. Ramsey prescribe antidepressants and other medications, where appropriate, and engage in talk therapy and other traditional forms of counseling. But they argue that fresh and nutritious food can be a potent addition to the mix of available therapies.

Americans routinely change what they eat in order to lose weight, control their blood sugar levels and lower artery-clogging cholesterol. But Dr. Ramsey says that it is still rare for people to pay attention to the food needs of the most complex and energy-consuming organ in the body, the human brain.

The patient Dr. Ramsey was seeing that day credits the nutritional guidance, including cutting down on many of the processed and fried foods and fatty meats that used to be part of his diet, with improving his mood and helping him overcome a long-term addiction to alcohol.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/well/eat/food-mood-depression-anxiety-nutrition-psychiatry.html

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