Brain Food – fending off mental illness with diet

The following is an excerpt from Medscape – a leading medical journal:

Diet is inextricably linked to conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. However, what we consume also seems to have significant implications for the brain: Unhealthy diets may increase risk for psychiatric and neurologic conditions, such as depression and dementia, whereas healthy diets may be protective.

What are the ‘good fats’?  Plant oils derived from nuts and seeds.  However, if plant oils are hydrogenated or treated to become solid, such as in margarines and immitation butter-like spreads, the health benefit is lost.

We are often urged to follow a Mediterranean Diet.  But what does this mean?  It means more consuming olive oil.  Look at HOW the people in this region eat.  They purchase locally grown fresh produce which is then prepared into a healthy meal, often on the same day.  Meals are eaten in a leisurely manner not rushed and eaten at one’s desk or in the car while travelling between appointments.

Fish Oil to Fend Off Psychosis?

Thanks to their high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely omega-3 fatty acids, fish can help fend off numerous diseases of the brain. A 2010 study correlated fish consumption with a lower risk for psychotic symptoms,[10] and concurrent work suggested that fish oil may help prevent psychosis in high-risk individuals.[11] New research shows that the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)  and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are beneficial in depression and postpartum depression, respectively, and other research suggests that omega-3 deficiency may be a risk factor for suicide.[12-16] Oily, cold-water fish, such as salmon, herring, and mackerel, have the highest omega-3 levels.

What Not to Eat?

Saturated fats and refined carbohydrates have highly detrimental effects on the immune system, oxidative stress, and neurotrophins, all factors that are known to play a role in depression. The study by Akbaraly and colleagues cited previously[22] showed that a diet rich in high-fat dairy foods and fried, refined, and sugary foods significantly increases risk for depression. Similar findings were seen in another study from Spain,[7] showing that intake of such foods as pizza and hamburgers increased the risk for depression over time, and in another study, women with a diet higher in processed foods were more likely to have clinical major depression or dysthymia.[17] Research published last year[37] also showed for the first time that quality of adolescents’ diets was linked to mental health: Healthier diets were associated with reduced mental health symptoms and unhealthy diets with increased mental health symptoms over time. Excess salt intake has been long known to increase blood pressure and stroke risk[38,39]; however, recent data also correlate high salt intake, as well as diets high in trans or saturated fats, with impaired cognition.[40,41]

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