Here at Food for the Brain, we approach brain health firmly rooted in the the growing scientific evidence from the study of nutritional psychiatry, neuroscience and psychology and encompasses nutrition and lifestyle interventions for supporting brain health and mental being, and preventing cognitive decline.
Nutrition is so 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. Much like a performance car, the brain functions best when it runs on premium fuel. The brain needs essential fats, vitamins, minerals as well as protein and carbohydrate.
When we think of food, we think of it as being enjoyable and providing energy and building blocks for the body. However, research is starting to recognise the important role food, supplements and dietary factors play on specific body systems, in terms of the mechanisms at play that preserve our mental function (1). As Professor Rucklidge shows, levels of nutrients beyond that achieved even by a ‘well balanced diet’ have the potential to prevent and reverse mental illness. As science is advancing, we are beginning to be able to identify how food not only influences energy metabolism, but also neuroplasticity. This is our brain’s ability to change and reorganise itself in response to injury and learning experiences (1), which is an important factor in the evolution of the modern brain. This emerging area of research is called, “nutritional psychiatry”, and posits nutritional medicine as a key intervention for brain health and mental wellbeing across the lifespan (2) (3).
From the very first study in 1988 showing that vitamins and minerals can increase IQ, published in the Lancet medical journal (4) and filmed by BBC Horizon – a study co-designed by our founder, together with schoolmaster Gwillym Roberts and David Benton, Professor of Psychology, to the ground breaking evidence from the University of Oxford, headed by another member of our Scientific Advisory Board, Professor David Smith, that B vitamins plus sufficient omega-3, can virtually stop further memory decline and slow down brain shrinkage by 73% in those with pre-dementia (5) we now have thirty five years of evidence that nutrition is the very foundation of mental health. Our charity exists to make sure that this knowledge is not ignored but shared widely.
- Gómez-Pinilla F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 9(7), 568–578. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2421
- Sarris J. (2019). Nutritional Psychiatry: From Concept to the Clinic. Drugs, 79(9), 929–934. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40265-019-01134-9
- Sarris, J., Logan, A. C., Akbaraly, T. N., Amminger, G. P., Balanzá-Martínez, V., Freeman, M. P., Hibbeln, J., Matsuoka, Y., Mischoulon, D., Mizoue, T., Nanri, A., Nishi, D., Ramsey, D., Rucklidge, J. J., Sanchez-Villegas, A., Scholey, A., Su, K. P., Jacka, F. N., & International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (2015). Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. The lancet. Psychiatry, 2(3), 271–274. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00051-0
- Benton D, Roberts G. Effect of vitamin and mineral supplementation on intelligence of a sample of schoolchildren. Lancet. 1988 Jan 23;1(8578):140-3. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(88)92720-1. PMID: 2892988.
- Jernerén F, Elshorbagy AK, Oulhaj A, Smith SM, Refsum H, Smith AD. Brain atrophy in cognitively impaired elderly: the importance of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and B vitamin status in a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jul;102(1):215-21. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.103283. Epub 2015 Apr 15. PMID: 25877495.