The effects of nutrition have been widespread in causing physical conditions, like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, and many nutritionists are often recruited to help people with these issues. However, nutrition does have effects on one other factor of the human body: mental health. Often overlooked, nutrition plays a massive role in the chemical makeup of the brain, and changes in nutrition can negatively impact a person’s mental health.
The first reason why nutrition is key to mental health is due to the neurotransmitter serotonin. 95% of serotonin is made in the GI tract, leading to the fact that the GI tract influences emotions through the nerve endings in the GI tract. Additionally, the presence of “good” bacteria in our GI tract influences the performance of GI tract neurons and the production of serotonin. However, the existence of “good” bacteria depends on the nutrition of the individual; if a person consumes food that is not rich in nutrients, the bacteria in the intestines will die off. This will lead to changes in the production of serotonin, thereby affecting mental health, leading to harmful consequences for the mental health of an individual. In fact, multiple studies have found that diets high in refined sugars have been associated with worsening mood disorder symptoms, illustrating the issues malnutrition can cause for mental health.
Lack of proper micronutrients like vitamins and minerals also causes harmful consequences to mental health. Micronutrients play important functions, including assisting amino acid conversion to neurotransmitters and also the implementation of essential fatty acids into neurons. A lack of these micronutrients can therefore lead to mental health issues; for example, lack of of omega-3 and omega-6 fats can lead to depression and memory problems, and can also increase the chance of bipolar disorder. Vitamin B is another example; lack of vitamin B3 can lead to depression, while the lack of vitamin B12 can lead to psychosis and poor memory. Therefore, proper nutrition goes a long way in preventing the deterioration of mental health for all ages and must be taken seriously.
Even trace elements have significant impacts on the mental health of individuals. Lack of magnesium and selenium can cause depression in individuals, while the lack of zinc can lead to a lack of motivation and confusion. These nutrients must only be consumed in small amounts, and it goes to show that even small deficiencies in nutrients can cause large mental health issues for people.
In order to maintain good mental health, it is recommended to incorporate complex carbohydrates (found in vegetables and brown rice), lean proteins (found in meat, fish, eggs, and nuts), and fatty acids (from fish, meat, eggs, and nuts). These nutrients help the nervous system build and maintain the system of neurons in the brain and across the body, as well as maintain the stores of molecules important in signaling. Without such nutrients, individuals risk the symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders.
All in all, nutrition plays an important role in mental health. While this finding is often overlooked by many people, it is a simple way of maintaining a good mindset and function throughout life. Hence, many should now look to be aware of their diet, as now we truly know that food controls our emotions.