An article entitled “Food May Be a Tool to Consider When Helping Psychiatric Patients” was published on October 16, 2015 in Psychiatric News, the print and electronic news service of the American Psychiatric Association. This publication says its purpose is “to provide the primary and most trusted information for APA members, other physicians and health professionals, and the public about developments in the field of psychiatry that impact clinical care and professional practice.”
Here is a ray of hope from a publication usually filled with news of the latest psychiatric drug or the latest programs for spreading psychiatric drug treatment far and wide.
The author, Drew Ramsey, M.D., is an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Dr. Ramsey is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He completed his specialty training in adult psychiatry at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, received an M.D. from Indiana University School of Medicine and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Earlham College. He’s a member of the American Psychiatric Association.
He’s also a farmer.
His work on food and brain health has been published in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Prevention.
He is one of psychiatry’s leading proponents of using dietary change to help balance moods, sharpen brain function and improve mental health. His website and blog are filled with reports of clinical trials that show improvement using nutrition rather than psychiatric drugs.
Dr. Ramsey talks about “Psychofarmacology” in which key foods such as kale, seafood and even dark chocolate nourish the brain and help to eliminate symptoms in patients normally treated with anti-depressants or other drugs.
Studies are showing that depression, dementia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder seem to respond very well to improvements in nutrition.
One study cited followed university students in Spain for over 4 years and found that a healthy Mediterranean diet decreased the risk factor of major depression by 42%.
Another study showed that postmenopausal women eating a standard “Western” diet with lots of simple carbs, fried foods and highly processed foods had increased risk for depression.
A very large study was done in the University of Western Australia and published in The Journal of Attention Disorders. Almost 3000 children were followed from birth to age 14. Those on the “Western” diet of saturated fat, sugar, refined carbs and high sodium were found to have double the risk for ADHD compared to those with a good diet.
Living on soda, take-out food and potato chips could very well be a quick route to the school counselor and an ADHD diagnosis and drug prescription.
In another study 202 sedentary adults diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) were divided into four groups at random and were given either a) supervised exercise; b) home-based exercise; c) the anti-depressant Zoloft; or d) a placebo pill. Results showed the patients doing exercise did better than those on Zoloft. The beneficial exercise results were longer lasting and free of the lengthy list of side-affects Zoloft is known to produce.
The British Journal of Psychiatry in the January 30, 2014 publication reported on results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial conducted by psychology investigators at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. It was run by independent academic scientists and was not funded by any manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or nutritional products.
They tested a micro-nutrient formula containing 14 vitamins, 16 minerals, 3 amino acids, and 3 antioxidants on adults with ADHD. It dramatically beat the placebo, having greater improvement in both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity as reported by the participants and by the observations of their friends, partners or parents.
The authors plan similar clinical trials soon with ADHD kids and are also exploring the effects of nutrition on sleep, anxiety and addictions – all currently treated with psychiatric drugs.
Dr. Ramsey is also active in the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR) – a group dedicated to growing the field of nutritional psychiatric research around the world.
He’s written several books to get out his message that improving diet and brain health can improve mental health. “50 Shades of Kale” was a best seller in 2013 and his book “Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients that Fuel Brain Power, Boost Weight Loss and Transform Your Health” is due in 2016.
It should sell well – a salmon dinner with a chocolate dessert seems a lot more appealing than a serving of Zoloft.