Emotional, irrational, and even explosive statements have risen in public discourse in recent years. Politicians are insulted during legislative debates; Scientists receive emails and tweets containing verbal abuse and threats.
What’s going on? This upsurge in angry rhetoric is sometimes attributed to social media. But are there other influences that alter communication methods?
As nutrition and mental health researchers and authors better brainWe are aware that many in our society suffer from cerebral starvation, which impairs their cognitive function and emotion regulation.
We’re clearly not deficient in macronutrients: North Americans tend to get enough protein, fat (although not usually the best fat) and carbs (usually not good complex carbohydrates). But we are deceived by micronutrients (minerals and vitamins), especially in those whose food choices are dominated by ultra-processed products.
Ultra-processed products include things like soft drinks, packaged snacks, sweetened breakfast cereals, and chicken nuggets. In general, they contain only trace amounts of a few micronutrients unless they have been fortified, but even then, they contain only a few of them in higher amounts.
Three published analyzes from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey and the 2018 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed these sobering statistics: In Canada, in 2004, 48 percent of calories intake across all ages came from ultra-processed products; In the United States, 67 percent of what children ages 2 to 19 and 57 percent of what adults consumed in 2018 were ultra-processed products.
Most of us are aware that nutritional intake is a major problem in physical health because diet quality is associated with chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The public is less aware of the impact of nutrition on brain health.
Micronutrients and mental health symptoms
Given that food choices in our society have moved aggressively toward ultra-processed products, we need to recognize the substantial scientific evidence that micronutrient intake affects mental health symptoms, particularly irritability, explosive anger, and unstable moods.
The scientific evidence base for this statement is now extensive, although it is so rarely mentioned in the media that few in the public know about it.
Dozens of studies from countries like Canada, Spain, Japan and Australia have shown that people who eat a healthy, complete diet have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than people who eat poor diets (mostly ultra-processed products).
Correlational studies cannot prove that dietary choices are the cause of mental health problems: so we turn to some compelling prospective longitudinal studies in which people without obvious mental health problems are entered into the study, their health and dietary patterns are assessed, and then followed over time. Some of the results were amazing.
In a study of nearly 89,000 people in Japan with 10-15 years of follow-up, the suicide rate of those eating a complete diet was half that of those eating a less healthy diet, highlighting an important new, not yet covered trend in suicide Present. prevention programmes.
Here in Canada, similarly robust results show how children’s dietary patterns, as well as following other health guidelines regarding exercise and screen time, predicted 10- to 11-year-olds would be referred for a diagnosis of a mental disorder in the next two years. It follows that nutritional education should be one of the first lines of treatment for children in this condition.
Irritability and unstable moods often characterize depression, so it is pertinent that several independent studies have found that teaching depressed people, who had been consuming relatively poor diets, how to change to a complete Mediterranean-style diet led to improvements big.
A Mediterranean-style diet is usually rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seafood, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
In one such study, about one-third of people who changed a whole-foods diet in addition to regular treatment found their depression to be at remission after 12 weeks.
The rate of remission in the control group with regular treatment but no diet change was less than one in 10. The whole foods diet group also reported a cost saving of about 20 percent in their weekly food budget. This last point helps dispel the myth that eating a diet of ultra-processed products is a way to save money.
Important evidence that irritability, extreme anger, and unstable moods can be resolved through enhanced micronutrient intake comes from studies evaluating micronutrient supplementation for mental health problems.
Most public consciousness is confined to the ominous search for magic bullets: studies of one nutrient at a time. This is a common way of thinking about causation (for problem X, you need drug Y), but that’s not how our brains work.
To support brain metabolism, our brains require at least 30 micronutrients to ensure the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, as well as the breakdown and removal of metabolic byproducts.
Several studies on multinutrient therapies have found improved mood regulation and reduced irritability, including randomized placebo-controlled trials of children with ADHD and mood disorders.
The evidence is clear: well-nourished populations are better able to withstand stress. Hidden hunger in the brain is a modifiable factor that contributes to emotional outbursts, aggression, and even a lack of civility in public discourse.
Bonnie Kaplan, Professor Emeritus, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, and Julia J. Rockledge, Professor of Psychology, University of Canterbury.
This article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.