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indexPsychiatric disorders in general, and major depression and anxiety disorders in particular, account for a large burden of disability, morbidity and premature mortality worldwide. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have a range of neurobiological activities in modulation of neurotransmitters, anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation and neuroplasticity, which could contribute to psychotropic effects. [1]

SmallLogoThe simple observation that associated mental health with food choice, ingestion and availability were apparent to the earliest of clinicians and for many people the use of foods and food concentrates have been both a help and a hindrance in managing mood and more complex neurological challenges.

Nutritional Therapists familiar with the work of Dr Abram Hoffer will be aware that some of the early work looking for bio-markers linked to nutrient need and supra dose supplementation has produced remarkable improvements in some people. However the pharmaceutical industry drove the attention of relevant clinicians towards pharmaceutical intervention, and whilst some surgical approaches have long been abandoned, talking therapies and drug therapy remain the primary point of intervention.

There are numerous incidences of natural agents being used to reduce the consequences of increased anxiety; some of these have a better sense of position in science than others. It must be remembered that there are still many unknowns about the whys and whats of all mental health disorders, but many people wish to explore the safer options first.

Ask any Nutritional Therapist about coffee consumption and I expect that 9 times out of ten they will seek to reduce someone’s intake – as someone who does not drink coffee the idea of giving something up that I do not consume is easy. But, for many the challenge is not simply exclusion but appropriate utilisation – because as with all foods and beverages there is a bell shaped curve between benefit and loss.

At present no chronic disease has a greater drag on global function than mental illness.[1] A remarkable 40% of the European population is affected in any given year with depressive symptoms, and these numbers are rising.

Core symptoms include depressed mood, anhedonia (reduced ability to experience pleasure from natural rewards), irritability, difficulties in concentrating, and abnormalities in appetite and sleep (‘neurovegetative symptoms’). In addition to mortality associated with suicide, depressed patients are more likely to develop coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes. Depression also complicates the prognosis of a host of other chronic medical conditions. The chronic, festering nature of depression contributes substantially to the global burden of disease and disability.

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B Vitamins Beat Depression

Wednesday, 18 August 2010 by

This month’s (August) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition presents a longitudinal study supporting the use of B vitamins in the management of mental health.

In Nutritional Therapy practice when we are faced with patients who seem to be struggling with depression and are finding recovery hard as well as trying to prevent recurrence after resolving their current symptoms we often think – B Vitamins

But what is the evidence for this apparently normal recommendation – is there anything of substance that supports the therapeutic use of these water soluble vitamins.

To date most studies have been conducted using a cross sectional approach[1],[2] (a class of research methods that involve observation of some subset of a population of items all at the same time, in which, groups can be compared at different ages with respect of independent variables) rather than the preferred prospective style investigations (an analytic study designed to determine the relationship between a condition and a characteristic shared by some members of a group). A prospective study may involve many variables or only two; it may seek to demonstrate a relationship that is an association or one that is causal. Prospective studies produce a direct measure of risk called the relative risk.

Alzheimers Postponed by Diet!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010 by

If Alzheimer’s is a disease related to adverse inflammatory responses over time, could one of the largest and most regular antigenic burden – our foods have a significant impact on risk of development. What level of conviction would we as humans looking at a future of declining cognitive function require to moderate our food selection.

The journal Archives of Neurology in April 2010 published a paper looking at the role of a protective diet over time on the risk of Alzheimer’s development in northern Manhattan, New York.[1]

As humans we are prone to wide food selection and isolated or synergistic combination become complex. To try and resolve a methodological error risk, this group used an alternative strategy called dietary pattern analysis.[2] Instead of looking at individual nutrients or foods, pattern analysis examines the effects of overall diet.

A group of 2,148 older adults (age 65 and older) without dementia living in New York were selected. They  provided information about their diets and were assessed for the development of dementia every 1.5 years for an average of four years. Several dietary patterns were identified with varying levels of seven nutrients previously shown to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk:

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