Food for the Brain - Nutrition, Mental Wellbeing and Cognitive Health


Access guidance on dietary changes and lifestyle measures for specific mental health and cognitive disorders, including references to research studies and practical tips.

Depression

There are been a number of studies demonstrating the benefit of omega 3 in depression. A trial led by Dr Andrew Stoll from Harvard Medical School, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, gave 40 depressed patients either omega 3 supplements versus placebo and found a highly significant improvement.

Parkinson’s disease

While the cause of Parkinson’s is not known, environmental toxins such as pesticides and herbicides are implicated. Researchers have found levels of these chemicals to be higher in the brains of Parkinson’s sufferers and incidence of Parkinson’s is higher in areas with greater use of these chemicals.

Bipolar Disorder

There have been some studies where magnesium was added to other treatments to stop symptoms of mania or rapid cycling. Magnesium can block the entry of too much calcium into cells (it is a natural calcium channel blocker) which may explain why it is helpful with some symptoms of illnesses.

ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder)

A study of 265 hyperactive children found that more than three-quarters of them displayed abnormal glucose tolerance, – that is, their bodies were less able to handle sugar intake and maintain balanced blood sugar levels.

Autism

There is growing evidence that nutritional therapy can really make a big difference to children with autism. Many have severely disrupted digestion, so restoring balance in the gut is a key focus for nutritional therapy. Also important is balancing blood sugar, checking for brain-polluting heavy metals, excluding food additives, identifying food allergies and possible nutrient deficiencies.

Stress

Diet is key, as eating the right foods and boosting your intake of certain nutrients can help you dramatically increase your energy reserves, so you feel better equipped to deal with life’s challenges. Getting enough sleep is also important. Adopting a more positive mindset can also change the way you perceive stressful events.

Schizophrenia and Psychosis

A nutritional approach works alongside conventional treatment and may improve both positive and negative symptoms, and also reduce the side-effects of medication. In some cases, the improvements are so great that the patient’s doctor may take the decision to cut down or discontinue medication.

Dyslexia and Dyspraxia

Children with dyslexia, dyspraxia and learning difficulties are very often deficient in these essential fats and/or the nutrients needed to properly utilise them, and the benefits of increasing the intake of these fats have been clearly documented in many studies. A high concentration of essential fats is needed in the eyes before they can manage the very rapid movements associated with vision.

Insomnia

If you have blood sugar levels which fluctuate wildly throughout the day and night, this can affect your sleep. Excessive sugar in your blood can have you feeling wide awake, whereas if your blood sugar is low, your body’s response is to release cortisol, a naturally-occurring hormone whose function is to release stored sugar into the bloodstream.

Alzheimer’s & Dementia

The single, hottest nutritional discovery is that your risk of developing Alzheimer’s is strongly linked to your level of the toxic amino acid homocysteine, which can be measured from a pinprick of blood on a home test kit. The lower your level throughout life the smaller your chances of developing serious memory decline.

Why optimum nutrition is important for the brain

The brain is the most energy-hungry organ in the body. Despite the fact that it weighs just 1.5kg, it steals roughly 25% of the body’s energy requirements. It is therefore dependent on a second-to-second supply of energy, which is only provided by the food we eat.

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