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Nutrition and mental health: why is the relationship important?

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Nutrition is important for your mental health

There is a growing body of evidence indicating that nutrition may play an important role in the prevention, development and management of diagnosed mental health problems including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and dementia.

Research has already provided evidence that there is a strong relationship between physical health and mental health, but it's now building about the direct association between what people eat and how they feel.

Mental health and nutrition
Mental health and nutrition

Nutrition from a young age.

Feeding the brain with a diet that provides adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and water can support healthy neurotransmitter activity.

Providing children with breakfast has been linked to improving their academic performance and increasing their attention, while reducing school fights and absence.


Diet has emerged as another therapeutic approach as deficiencies in micro-nutrients have been implicated in mental health problems. Unequal intakes of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in the diet, for example, are implicated in some mental health problems, including depression and low intakes of folic acid, can significantly increase the chances of being diagnosed with depression.


Although a complex area, some studies have found that people with schizophrenia have lower levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in their bodies than the general population, and that antioxidant enzymes are lower in the brains of people with schizophrenia.

Also, after The Dutch Famine and 1960s Chinese famine, studies found that severe starvation exposure in early pregnancy led to a two-fold increase in the diagnosis of schizophrenia requiring hospitalization in both male and female children.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

Deficiencies in iron, magnesium and zinc have been found in children with symptoms of ADHD, and studies have consistently shown significant improvements with supplementation when compared with placebo, either alongside normal medication or as stand-alone treatment.

It is vital that the public are informed about the type of diet that will promote their mental health in the same way food is promoted for physical health reasons.

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