There is a clear association between nutritional intake, central nervous system (CNS), and immune function thereby influencing an individual's mental health status.
The important macro and micronutrients suggested are as follows:-
Carbohydrates:-They play an important role as they are the main source of energy and affect mood as well as behaviour. Carbohydrate-rich meals trigger insulin in the body, which regulates the food sugar levels in the blood to be utilised as energy and triggers the entry of tryptophan to the brain.
Diet low in carbohydrates precipitate depression as serotonin and tryptophan promote the feeling of well being. Also, low glycemic index foods (GI) such as fruits and vegetables, pasta, and whole grains provide a moderate and long-lasting effect on the brain, compared to sweets which provide immediate but temporary relief.
Proteins:-A high-quality protein diet, rich in all the essential amino acids include dairy products, poultry and seafood. Certain amino acids play an important role and affect the functioning of the brain, as they are responsible for the formation of neurotransmitters, associated with low mood and aggression. Example tyrosine which helps form dopamine and serotonin made from the tryptophan. The excessive buildup of phenylalanine in individuals with a disease called phenylketonuria can cause brain damage and mental retardation.
Omega-3 fatty acids:-The brain has the highest level of lipids (fats), fatty acids, and structural constituents of membranes. Also, 50% of fatty acids are PUFAs and supplied through the diet. Nutrients that may affect the structure and function of the brain, the omega-3 fatty acids especially alpha-linolenic acid, ALA. As per research, it has been hypothesised that long-chain PUFAs, especially DHA, may decrease the chances of depression.
Their deficiency can accelerate cerebral ageing by preventing the renewal of membranes.
α-linolenic acid, arachidonic acid (AA) and docosa tetraenoic acid, both derived from the omega-6 fatty acid- linoleic acid. Studies do suggest that diets low in omega-3 fats lead to neural function disturbance. Another fact, despite the abundance of DHA and AA in the nervous system, they cannot be synthesised on their own, in absence of their precursors.
Calcium - Serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) inhibit the absorption of calcium into bones, as they help lower blood pressure in people.
Iodine- The significance of this micronutrient is that it ensures the energy metabolism of the cerebral cells.
Iron- It is necessary for oxygenation and to produce energy and for the synthesis of neurotransmitters and myelin. Iron deficiency is found in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
- Rao, T. S., Asha, M. R., Ramesh, B. N., & Rao, K. S. (2008). Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian journal of psychiatry, 50(2), 77–82. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.42391
- Murray, C. J., Lopez, A. D., & World Health Organization. (1996). The global burden of disease: a comprehensive assessment of mortality and disability from diseases, injuries, and risk factors in 1990 and projected to 2020: summary. World Health Organization.