Nutrition information by condition for Mental and Cognitive Health

Access guidance on dietary changes and lifestyle measures to support your mental health. We share detailed nutrition information by condition and include practical tips for you to use.

Note we always try to list references to research studies and list as many as possible also in our Evidence Database.

One of the most obvious yet under recognised factors in the development of mental health is nutrition. Just like the heart, stomach and liver, the brain is an organ that requires different amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fattyacids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and water to remain healthy. An integrated approach that equally reflects the interplay of biological factors, as well as broader psychological, emotional and social conceptions of mental health, is vital in order to reduce the prevalence and the distress caused by mental health
problems: diet is a cornerstone of this integrated approach.

Mental Health Foundation policy briefing 2017

Click on the arrows in each section below to learn more….

ADHD (Attention Deficit & 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.

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.


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.

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.


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.

Dyslexia & 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.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. You might feel anxious when doing a presentation at work, taking a test, or making an important decision. However, anxiety disorders go beyond temporary worries or fears. For people who suffer from anxiety disorders, the condition does not go away. Instead, it worsens over time and affects every aspect of their life.


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.

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.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD is a mental health condition that can be caused by a frightening or life threatening event. Originally a term used to describe the traumatised state of some returning war veterans, it is now understood that a variety of traumatic situations can cause PTSD, such as accidents, crime, disasters, childbirth or family or partner abuse…


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.


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.


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Blood glucose homeostasis

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Gut Health

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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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