eNewsletter - March 2020

Behavioral Health Partners

The Connection Between Nutrition and Mental Health
Megan Raupp, MS RD LDN

As rates of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and bipolar disease rise as well as the use of pharmaceuticals to treat these conditions, studies indicate that while these medications show promising short-term outcomes, the same is not seen in the long term.

This causes researchers and mental health experts to question the effectiveness of medication alone as a treatment approach. At the same time, increasing poor nutrition is a worldwide problem, with an estimated 3 billion people reporting low quality diets.

It’s clear nutrition and mental health are correlated, but despite their connection, they are often erroneously seen as separate. Nutrition is necessary for proper body functioning, which includes brain function.

Nourishment of the brain is crucial for as it provides the groundwork in mental health care and therapy. Good nutrition allows brain chemistry to normalize, directly impacts mood and cognitive function and is extremely beneficial as an adjunct treatment to medication and therapeutic interventions.

History of nutrition and mental health. Since the 1940’s, many studies have focused on the connection between nutrition and mental health, beginning with the Minnesota Starvation experiment, which drastically restricted caloric intake and saw a marked increase in psychological distress and depression.

In the 1970’s the London Metropolitan University, Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition recognized the link between dietary fats and cardiovascular disease, but their predictions of a connection to brain health were initially met with skepticism. However, in the face of mounting research, the field of Nutritional Psychology emerged in the early 2010’s to address the connection between nutrients, mood and behavior.

Nutrition biochemistry, inflammation and the “western diet”. Studies show that highly processed diets lead to higher levels of inflammation in the body and in turn, can lead to increased instances of illness and disease. Research also supports eating a diet high in lean proteins, whole grains, fresh produce and nuts/seeds as the most beneficial for mental health; rather than diet high in processed, nutrient-poor high calorie foods. Some reports show that 60-80% of people respond to supplemental micronutrients, which could offer a simple and affordable way to reduce or prevent mental health concerns and decrease the use of medication.

Additionally, the positive outcomes of proper nutrition, including less disease on many fronts, could lead to substantial health care cost savings. To paraphrase author Michael Pollan who has written extensively on the topic of nutrition, “There is no such thing as cheap food, the price paid may be with your health.”

Populations at greatest risk. There are two high risk population groups at an increased risk of nutritional deficiency: adolescents and aging adults. Adolescents typically eat a diet of processed, refined and high-sugar foods, putting them at increased risk of developing mental issues. The elderly is at risk for developing dementia or other disorders as a result poor nutrition or the taking of certain pharmaceuticals, such as laxatives, diuretics, or thyroid medications, that could deplete storage of certain micronutrients or impact metabolism.

So, what can we do? Simply encouraging patients to eat a more nutritious diet could be a solution to decreasing mental health issues. However, researchers don’t yet understand which people will benefit from diet manipulation or instead, increased supplementation of micronutrients. Until that is full understood, there is one thing we do know: people who eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and health fats have lower instances of depression and inflammation throughout the body. Prioritizing lifestyle factors as part of treatment and optimizing nutrition by avoiding a heavily processed diet high in refined grains and sugars is a good place to start.

Finding more resources. At Linden Oaks, our comprehensive eating disorder service program addresses the relationship between proper nutrition and mental health. If you or a loved one need more resources on eating disorders, call our Linden Oaks Help Line 24 hours a day at (630) 305-5027 for assistance from one of our experienced assessment professionals.



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3. Food for thought: can nutrients nurture better mental health? Nursing Review, 2017

4. Harbottle. The effect of nutrition on older people’s mental health. British Journal of Community Nursing: Nutrition Supplement, 2019

5. Gronning. Psychological distress in elderly people is associated with diet, wellbeing, health status, social support and physical functioning- a HUNT3 study. BMC Geriatrics, 2018

6. Jacka. A Prospective Study of Diet Quality and Mental Health in Adolescents. PLoS One, 2011

7. Tessier. Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes: Impact of Weight, Quality of Life, and Psychiatric Symptoms in Veterans with Mental Illness. Military Medicine, 2017

8. Sarris. Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2015

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A Fantastically Therapeutic and Dysfunctional Night of Stand-up Comedy

Registration is open for, A Fantastically Therapeutic and Dysfunctional Night of Stand-up Comedy, presented by Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.  The event will take place Friday, May 8 from 5:30 p.m. at the Center Stage Theater (1665 Quincy Avenue, Suite 131, Naperville, IL 60540). 

The Night of Comedy is an event designed for community behavioral health professionals to unwind and laugh together.  It is an opportunity for our behavioral health community to come together for self-care through comedy.

Our event will feature a collection of Chicagoland Stand Up comedians hosted by Marty DeRosa.  T

The doors to the theater open at 5:30 p.m. with food/drinks.   The show starts at 7:00 p.m.  Tickets are $25 and seating is limited.  To reserve a ticket, visit nightofcomedy2020.eventbrite.com.  

  • A Fantastically Therapeutic and Dysfunctional Night of Comedy
  • Friday, May 8, 2020
  • Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Avenue, Suite 131, Naperville, IL 60540
  • Doors open at 5:30 pm.  Show is at 7:00 pm.
  • Tickets: $25  Seating is limited. Please reserve now!
  • Enjoy drinks, food, and comedy