Poor diet may affect mental health, report finds

Changes in diet over the past 50 years could be an important factor in the rise of mental illness, says the Mental Health Foundation in a new report published today.

The UK population is eating less nutritious fresh produce including fish and fruit and vegetables and more saturated fats and sugars, according to the study.

Evidence on the role of diet in treating mental health problems is growing and advice on nutrition should be a standard part of mental health care, said
Andrew McCulloch, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation.

“We are well aware of the effect of diet upon our physical health, but we are only just beginning to understand how the brain, as an organ, is influenced by the nutrients it derives from the foods we eat, and how our diets have an impact on our mental health.

Our government cannot ignore the growing burden of mental ill health in the UK and must look to nutrition as an option in helping people to manage their mental health problems,” said McCulloch.

The foundation’s report cites six services using diet and nutrition to promote mental health or manage mental health problems.

These include an early intervention team in Rotherham supporting people experiencing psychosis. Treatment includes assessing and improving diet.

The Natural Justice project in Oxford has reduced offending by young people, after improving nutrition.

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