Throughout the last several decades, we have learned extensively about the different organ systems in the bod. But in the great scheme of things, we are just beginning to understand the complexity of the interactions. We have sequenced our DNA and are beginning to realize the important physiology of the intestines and immune system. However, we still know very little about our control center, the brain.

 

All inputs change our physiology to some degree. When I think about the inputs that come into our brain, I am overwhelmed. Nutrition, news and social media, our belief systems, and the environment around us are all inputs to the brain. These inputs can alter the brain and change the entire physiology of the body.

 

Many in our society suffer from chronic diseases. Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, coronary artery disease, and arthritis are the most commonly discussed. But what about mental health problems, such as depression? Shouldn’t mental health be added to the list? Mental health is the largest cause of disability in the world.

 

Every year the incidence of depression increases. The traditional treatments include medications. However, some have cast doubt on their effectiveness. Robert Whitaker in his much-acclaimed book, “The Anatomy of an Epidemic” examines the research and extent of the problem. So what other treatments might prove effective? A study recently conducted at Deakin University has shown that improving quality of nutrition can be successful in combating major depression.

 

In this study adults were randomly divided into two cohorts. One group consumed more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, lean red meat, olive oils, and nuts, while reducing unhealthy foods such as sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks. Results published in BMC Medicine (www.fooodandmoodcentre.com) showed that a third of participants in the dietary support group met criteria for remission of major depression. Can you imagine the results that could be realized if these patients improved their diets even further? What if the study had a plant based nutrition group? What if other brain inputs were studied?

 

Treating depression will help treat all chronic diseases and lower the risk of acute problems. This is a win-win treatment. I applaud Deakin University for spending research dollars on this type of study. By providing better nutrition for the brain, the physiology is improved. I guess Hippocrates was on to something when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”