Why Diet Might Be a Big Deal for Mental Health


[ ♪INTRO ] When it comes to physical health, mountains
of evidence will tell you that a healthy diet is important. And it is. But a growing body of research is showing
that diet is important for mental health, too. And before you click away, no, I’m not about
to show you 10 superfoods to cure your depression! or anything. Mental health is way more complicated than
that, and everything from your genetics to your environment can affect it. But there is some evidence that diet also
plays a role here. Studies have found a link between what people
eat and their risk of mental illness — even when it comes to the severity of their symptoms. And if diet contributes to these conditions,
well, maybe it can help treat them, too. There are all kinds of studies showing how
diet and mental health are related. Some focus on food in general — like a 2013
meta-analysis, which found that diets high in fruit, vegetables, fish, and whole grains
may be associated with a reduced risk of depression. But other studies have found something more
specific. They’ve reported that, when it comes to
mental health, it’s not just about having a generally “healthy” or “unhealthy”
diet. Instead, specific nutrients are sometimes
involved. For example, in a 2017 paper, researchers
used data from a long-term health study to look at older adults diagnosed with depression. And they found that participants’ levels
of vitamins B12, B6, and folate all decreased in the year leading up to their diagnosis. Several other studies have also found that
participants with depression and schizophrenia tended to have lower levels of folate than
the general population. Admittedly, this relationship is based on
correlations, which means they don’t say a nutrient caused anything. But it seems like there could be something
going on here. And if so, there’s a pretty good explanation
for why: Those nutrients all act as antioxidants. During daily life, chemical reactions in your
body can split oxygen molecules into atoms with unpaired electrons, which are called
free radicals. Without a second electron, these free radicals
are unstable, so they scavenge other cells to find an electron to pair with. That puts the body under stress and can ultimately
cause inflammation or other damage. Antioxidants are molecules that fight that
stress by handing over their own electrons without becoming unstable themselves. What does that have to do with mental health? Well, there’s a lot of evidence for a link
between certain mental health symptoms and inflammation. The link is especially strong for depression,
but papers have found some support for this connection with ADHD, schizophrenia, and bipolar
disorder as well. The research is ongoing, but the general idea
seems to be that inflammatory molecules may affect how chemicals are released in the brain. In any case, the relationship has come up
enough that some researchers have wondered if giving a patient nutrient supplements that
fight inflammation could help ease their symptoms. And amazingly, it might — at least, in some
cases. In September 2019, a huge meta-review was
published in World Psychiatry, and it took a big-picture look at nutritional supplements
and mental health conditions. Now, a meta-review is a re-analysis of the
data from a bunch of meta-analyses, which themselves are re-analyses of the data from
a bunch of individual studies. So suffice it to say, this paper looked at
a ton of data. And what it found was kind of encouraging. For one, it found that folate — which fights
inflammation — was helpful for depression symptoms when it was used as an add-on to
existing treatment. It also found emerging evidence that a kind
of antioxidant amino acid could be a useful treatment for depression, schizophrenia, and
bipolar disorder. The big stars of the paper, though, were omega-3s,
which are types of fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties. There are a bunch of them, but the most effective
one in this review was EPA. In the paper, there was some evidence that
omega-3 supplements helped with ADHD. And there was a bunch of evidence that they
helped with depression. Like, these supplements were demonstrated
to reduce depressive symptoms in people with major depressive disorder over 13 studies
involving more than 1200 participants. That’s a lot of participants! Especially for psych research! Now, one thing this review didn’t say was
that all supplements are effective all the time. Like, it didn’t find that omega-3s were
helpful for schizophrenia or other mental illnesses. And despite what smaller studies have found,
the review found little evidence for the effectiveness of zinc, magnesium, or vitamin C or E supplements. Vitamin D even fell short, although the authors
noted that there is some growing evidence that it could help treat depression. Overall, the authors say we need more research
examining individual nutrients and their effects on specific mental illnesses. But the takeaway is that supplements could
be really helpful for some patients, depending on their situation. Of course, there’s also a big thing to keep
in mind here: Even for the nutrients that showed promise, these supplements are not
a cure-all. Diet is only one potential factor in someone’s
mental health, and it’s completely possible to have a nutrient-rich diet and a mental
illness. Like I said earlier, mental health is complicated. And just because supplements could help doesn’t
mean they’re the only way to get help. Ultimately, those kinds of decisions are up
to a person and their doctor. If nothing else, though, this kind of research
does remind us that our brains aren’t separate from the rest of our bodies. And eating a healthy diet is likely one way
to take care of them both. If you want to learn more about mental health,
you might enjoy our episode about how there’s more than one type of bipolar disorder. But as always, thanks for watching this episode
of SciShow Psych! We know there’s a lot of content online
these days, and we’re thankful you’re spending some of your time getting smarter
with us. [ ♪OUTRO ]

90 thoughts on “Why Diet Might Be a Big Deal for Mental Health

  1. First comment 🙂

    I've always wanted to do this, even though it's wholly unnecessary.

    Fascinating video as always

  2. Maybe people are getting depressed because as they get older, they become poorer and don't have access to the highly nutritious, expensive diets they need.

  3. I have depression and I'm in my 20s and my psychiatrist told me I should eat well,and excersise. I had my own meal plan and I'd go to the gym about 4 days a week. Hitting all the major muscles I could do and hitting secondary muscles as well. And I noticed I was a lot happier,I was sleeping better and generally just in a better condition. I was also taking multi vitamins. Yeah I was basically peeing the excess vitamins but it was honestly amazing.

  4. I've heard of this!! Antiinflammatories being used to help things that we never thought had anything to do with inflammation!

  5. Omega 3's need to be balanced with omega 6 so taking more omega 3 by itself won't make you feel better. Taking more zinc can deplete copper, so keeping things in balance is important. Getting nutrients from the right food is your best bet because it will have a balance naturally. Overall having a healthy lifestyle including waking and getting outside will help with overcoming stress and depression overall. Take care of yourself! 🥰

  6. Well my theory is this, Diet Might Be a Big Deal for Mental Health
    maybe because there's a factor that connect them both: Will

    The root of all
    Mental Health issues is the lacking of Will to let go of certain desirable-to-mind thought patterns
    while Diet, for somebody to be involved in a strict diet is to also requires a strong Will to achieve that

    hence if somebody is in a diet, the possibility of him to adjust with his mental health state, could be influenced from his diet

    that's my perspective

  7. I would imagine that a healthy diet is a crucial component to every aspect to a properly functioning biology. That's why I'm on the high THC, fat, carb' diet. I also include skittles to get my hourly dose of fruits and vegetables.

  8. Yup! Ive got a mutation that does not allow me to process folic acid, which leads to lower energy levels and all sorts of stuff. Started taking methylfolate and now Im a good deal better☺

  9. We blame our fathers for for bad personality traits. But lot mental stimulies hormones heart beats anti bodies. out side sounds and voice's are absorbed in the womb maybe outside voice's

  10. I started taking B-vitamins a while ago for a different reason, but I noticed a mood improvement. I thought the vitamins just improved the way my anti-depressants worked… but I may have been wrong

  11. I notice it especially with food filled with sugar (candy, cereals, etc.)
    First I get a sugar spike and my focus decreases, afterwards I just feel bad…
    Off course it's just temporary, but if you eat it daily, I can imagine you feel bad.

  12. So mind is the flow of Electrons. Not just chemicals being there.
    Like or not or the is matchines. Not bottle . Their fuels pipes buttons Charges energy Flo vibes wave length of charges and impuses. Electrical charges. We cella are matchines. My movie univers..like a bugs life or finding Nemo the more learn about Real fish or insects and real mircobes the less like cartons and more like Documentaries. What your brain wasn't A computer but a network of Computers and your neurons and Cells themselves are computers and protiens are the circuits and transistors

  13. Let this be a reminder to go get yourself that green smoothie or eat that vegetable soup! You deserve to be happy and healthy

  14. I have suffered with depression on and off all of my life. I was on the strongest dose of Fluoxetine after my young nephew was killed.
    I then went cold turkey and started vaping marijuana each evening instead. I haven't had any ill effects since, quite the contrary;
    I sleep better, my pain levels have decreased (I have degenerative Osteoarthritis in my spine and knees, I have to take morphine twice a day just to be able to cope) and my depression is much better controlled.

  15. I don't know why this is news.. Rhonda Patrick of foundmyfitness did a great podcast on inflammation and depression

  16. Kind of sounds like mentally healthy people just eat healthier. I'm somewhat skeptical towards nutrition science, there's so much publishing bias and straight up fraud going on. Sure it sounds promising that supplements helped in a somewhat controlled environment, but even then it sounds more likely that they just improved the patient's overall health because of some unnoticed deficiencies or whatever, which reduced depressive symptoms. Like, you know, sports do.

  17. I don't have the time or patience to check the sources, but I'm betting that the one about Omega 3 was authored by Stephen Ilardi. Anyone wanna fact check that?

  18. Are there any studies that have looked at prices of things geting set in such a way that makes it intentionaly hard to do the mental math on adding it up. Like what sequence of numbers are deemed harder to do in your head?

  19. I have ADD and I was just starting to notice my forgetfulness seemed to get especially intense when I haven't had fish in a while. I might experiment more with fish oil supplements. Like Hank said, omega 3s don't "cure" my ADD, but it seems that without them I'm way less functional than my already less-than-ideal usual state.

  20. Too bad we can’t just drink a glass of electrons and direct them to the atoms/cells that need them. Talk about convenient….Well maybe someday….

  21. People who found this interesting: look up the talks by Stephen Ilardi. He studies depression and (among other things) the ways in which Omega fatty acids help treat it. He's got some pretty interesting insights!

  22. People with severe mental illnesses live on average 15 year shorter than average. If eating healthier gives a few more years, it's also a win.

  23. All I know is I was happier when I ate garbage everyday.
    Ok, not true, but I am happier when I think about the garbage I used to eat.

  24. Yup, full disclaimer I'm not a doctor etc etc. but I find that taking multivitamins daily makes a significant improvement to my mental health 🙂

  25. Still waiting for the science to reflect just how much bad parenting can permanently ruin a persons chances for dodging or minimizing mental illness. You can definitely raise somebody the wrong way, and either encourage existing genetic factors for mental illness or create new environmental factors for mental illness. I feel like parents get a pass from society on all the damage they cause, and while most parents would love to claim "unintentional", I think the sad truth is that they just don't care all the time, or in some cases, don't care in general. Society treats parents like saints by virtue of having reproduced, but not everybody should be a parent, and some parents actively contribute to society's woes through their shitty parenting.

  26. Who decides what mental state is healthy? It's entirely subjective. Perhaps being passive and thinking "everything is just fine" is an unhealthy mental state. "Curing" one's mental state is impossible, you're just changing it to something you personally find more suitable

  27. One common factor that seems to keep coming up is inflammation. And the simplest view makes a lot of sense. inflammation means swelling, and swelling can impede the transport of liquid. Inflammation in the brain can block its sewer/drain system, especially important during relaxed deep sleep. Crap builds up, causes more inflammation, vicious circle. Brain cells can't get rid of their waste, wither, die. So keep your pipes clean ! 🙂

  28. I changed my diet drastically about 6 months ago and I noticed a huge difference in mood. I don't feel nearly as depressed or anxious as I did before.

  29. My mdd reached the point of psychosis, in 2014. My doctor had a hunch and sent me for a blood panel. They found one of my blood pressure medications had depleted both my potassium and b12. I had to change bp meds. Now, every three days, I buy a bunch of fresh veggies, put them in a steamer and load up. I still have pretty severe, treatment-resident mdd but the mixed steamed veggies have certainly helped.

  30. Ok here is a doozy. Anti-seizure medications (antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) which are used to treat Bipolar 1 and 2, as well as other mental health disorders, can cause folate deficiency anaemia. Yep so based on this video this makes us extra screwed. Next time I get anaemia I will mention this video to my GP

  31. Wow, that's crazy, a couple of years ago I had like, a MASSIVE depression that lasted for, at least, 3 years. And the year before that, even just a couple of month, my doctor noticed, after a blood test, that my folate was incredibly low, for reason that we don't know, but I had to be careful (somehow).

    And the year after my depression, blood test again, and my "level" of folate was back to normal.

  32. That's so interesting when I was in inpatient for depression and psychosis we found out I had low levels of folate because my body had a hard time producing it so they started giving me methyl-folate and it helped along with the other meds they were giving me.

  33. I have a severe neuropathology since childhood. We don't know exactly what it is, but I've noticed that I have to be super strict with my diet or pandemonium begins.
    So, eat healthy.

  34. Before going on antidepressants, my doctor had me on vitamins D3 and B12 (since I was deficient in both). While I did feel better, it wasn't 100% so we moved on from there. So I can personally attest to a food-mental health link. Great video

  35. Great video. I truly believe in this stuff. I believe that we eat too many foods with either too little micronutrients or we eat too many with anti-nutrients negating the effect of nutrient rich foods.

    Grains need to be sprouted or fermented and you need to feed your gut microbiome with prebiotic foods. Without these some people will become deficient.

  36. 0:19 to be fair, antioxidant-rich foods are like the canonical "superfood".

    Good thing there's 5 other minutes of this video about those scare quotes!

  37. Just a reminder that what’s good for your brain may not be always good for other organs in your body! That’s the tricky part!

  38. Why isn't there a yearly recommended, nay I say, required mental health exam?
    A mentally healthy society will both save and earn billions more dollars each year!
    Seems like we want to be nuts
    Think about it,
    if we even can..

  39. I tried a diet low in inflammatory foods, and it was so complicated that my anxiety got noticeably worse! I think it’s because I had to think about my food so much. I had more energy without all the junk sugar and heavy carbs, but the worsened anxiety blew, and whole food diets get really expensive really fast.

  40. The thing is that, we can't change our genetics and environment so easily, but we can change our diet relatively easily.

  41. yeah my psychiatrist started prescribing me omega 3, and other supplements along with the common medication for chronic depression, not sure if I see any difference yet, then again he only prescribed it to me recently. Here's hopping it will do something

  42. Now… everyone…. sing along with me… 🎼 Correlation is not causation…🎶. Seriously… did it ever occur to you that depression limits food choices? It’s hard to cook healthy when you’re depressed smart-A. 🙄

  43. I was actually hoping for ten super foods that will help with depression…. But at least you confirm that I really do feel better when I eat more fruit. Vegies are too hard, need cooking / keeping fresh… but you can freeze bananas, passionfruit pulp, pineapple. Still experimenting.

  44. Huh. I have arthritis and depression. I figured it was chronic pain that caused the depression, but maybe the inflammation contributed, too. Anyhow, guess I should add some fish oil to my regimen.

  45. daily reminder to take your meds, take your vitamins, and eat like maybe one vegetable or maybe some fruit if you can get to it today thanks also GO DRINK SOME WATER DAMNIT

  46. This is possibly true! I have read many studies on how certain foods help those with ADHD. Something about the chemicals and all causing inbalances.

  47. Wish this had talked about link btwn dairy, gluten, corn and other foods and increased symptoms in those suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders and other kinds of depression.
    Wish someone would, maybe the shootungs would stop if everyone knew this information.

  48. I just found out a friend of mines daughter was diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia, and I find it curiously ironic that y'all have published two videos that either focus on that, or mention both significantly.

    Small world!

  49. great chain links, building blocks of the human anatomy, nonetheless minerals, vitamins, aminos, fatty acids, nutrients for the individualized cause. Great video, great post as always, peace and blessings, cosmic well wishes, ty!

  50. My doctors have advised me to take Omega 3, B12, and vitamin D supplements for my mental health (in addition to things like SSRIs and cognitive behavioral therapy).

    In uni, I decided to go vegetarian without having done much research (and with a shoestring grocery budget – sriracha on buttered noodles isn't a healthy meal, kids!) The resulting deficiencies exacerbated my existing mental health struggles, so I saw quite extreme benefits from adding the supplements my doctor recommended.

    Now that I eat a more nutritionally balanced diet, I'm never sure if it's just the placebo effect, but I think they are still useful to me (especially the vitamin D in winter).

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