In the wake of the integrative health movement, researchers have been working to bridge a hot topic with a stigmatized one. A growing body of research comprises the emerging field of “nutritional psychiatry,” which explores nutrition interventions to alleviate symptoms of mental disorders, namely anxiety and depression.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders involve psychiatric conditions feeling fear or worry, while depression is a condition where individuals feel sad, discouraged, hopeless, and indifferent in life to the extent where these feelings affect daily activities. The ADAA states that anxiety and depression are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting adults and children, with an estimated 40 million Americans affected by anxiety, and about 54 million affected by depression.
As the field of nutritional psychiatry grows, it’s important to recognize the need for population level preventive approaches toward common mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
As an MPH student who is passionate about recognizing nutrition’s role in mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, I traveled to Washington D.C. this past August to attend an annual conference hosted by the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR). ISNPR is an organization created to bring together scientists and practitioners interested in furthering Nutritional Psychiatry research. Dozens of researchers gave presentations on common nutritional themes that were crosslinked with depression and anxiety:
As the field of nutritional psychiatry grows, it’s important to recognize the need for population-level preventive approaches toward common mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. This may involve categorizing common mood disorders as non-communicable diseases that may be prevented by modifiable lifestyle decisions such as proper nutrition, which begins with encouraging our youth to eat balanced, nutrient-rich, whole foods diet.6