Date Published: 2 November 2009

Mental health charity welcomes groundbreaking diet study

Mental Health issues - UK

Commenting on the ‘Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age’ study by researchers from University College London, Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said:

" This study adds to an existing body of solid research that shows the strong links between what we eat and our mental health. The mind and body are often separated but the brain, just like the heart or liver, is an organ that needs nutrients to stay healthy and functional.

He also added the following:

Research studies important

Major studies like this are crucial because they hold the key to us better understanding mental illness, which enables us to find out how we can both treat and prevent widespread mental health problems like depression, anxiety and dementia.

We need to take notice of international dietary studies. People living in some countries in other parts of the world have very different diets to people in the UK. There is a lot to be gained from researchers around the globe assessing the impact that different diets can have on mental health.

UK population is consuming less nutritious, fresh produce and more saturated fats and sugars

The UK population is consuming less nutritious, fresh produce and more saturated fats and sugars. Significant changes in the way food is produced and manufactured have reduced the amounts of essential fats, vitamins and minerals we consume. New substances, such as pesticides, additives and trans-fats have also been introduced to the diet. This imbalance combined with a lack of vitamins and minerals is associated with depression as well as concentration and memory problems.

We are particularly concerned about those who cannot access fresh produce easily or live in areas where there are a high number of fast food restaurants and takeaways. Groups to which we need to pay real attention include those on a low income and the unemployed.

Government needs to educate the general public

The findings of this study will come as a surprise to many because the links between diet and mental health are still relatively unknown. The Government, as part of its ten year plan to tackle mental illness by 2020, needs to educate individuals and families more about how they can look after their mental health to prevent common problems such as depression and dementia.

There are things that people can do to ensure that they eat the necessary nutrients to keep the brain healthy. The same diet that is widely accepted to be good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. A healthy balanced diet includes lots of different types of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds, meat and dairy from extensively reared sources and oily fish from sustainable fisheries.

Findings taken from Feeding Minds, a report from the Mental Health Foundation:

Over the last 60 years or so there has been a 34% decline in UK vegetable consumption with currently only 13% of men and 15% of women now eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day

People in the UK eat 59% less fish - the main source of omega 3 fatty acids - than they did 60 years ago.

Women reported eating healthy foods, including fresh vegetables, fruit or fruit juice and meals made from scratch, more often than men, who tend to eat more takeaways and ready meals.

Younger people are more likely than older people to report daily mental health problems, as are those in social class DE, those on a lower income, those who are not in paid employment and those who are not married.

Nearly two thirds of those who did not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit or fruit juice every day, compared with less than half of those who did report daily mental health problems. This pattern was similar for fresh vegetables and salad.


Source: Mental Health Foundation, UK.

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