The Role of Nutrition in Brain-Health

9:00 am - 10:15 am, Hall 1

The role of nutrition in brain-health is a rapidly growing area of interest currently evidenced by global research efforts dedicated to the field of Nutritional Psychiatry. Many people are simply unaware that there are “brain-selective” nutrients which safe-guard against poor mental ill-health reducing risk of the development of depression, anxiety, attention deficits and more. In fact, nutrition is considered a neuromodulator and cognitive enhancer for brain-function.

For example, omega-3 fatty acids play a significant role in our cell signaling (communication) system across neuronal networks and also in the production and regulation of our dopaminergic and serotoninergic systems. Several clinical trials have demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in clinical symptoms of depression, ADHD as well as a decrease of risk of psychosis in those taking omega-3 supplements compared to a placebo.

The role of nutrition in prevention and disease-management in non-communicative diseases and in restoring and maintaining brain-health is significant. There are established links between the habitual consumption of Westernized diets (e.g., junk and processed foods such as cheap industrialized vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates) and diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, depression and poorer cognitive function.

More recently, a neuroimaging study reported structural alterations in the adult brain, namely a smaller hippocampus (the part of the brain critical for memory, learning and the generation of new cells) in those eating a “Western” style diet compared to a “healthy” diet. Researchers working in the field of Nutritional Neuroscience attribute the increase in mental ill-health as potentially due to chronic inflammation in the brain. Increasing evidence has suggested this is due to an imbalance in brain composition of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as a result of excessive consumption of omega-6 rich foods and a decreased intake of omega-3 fats. The omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) is a precursor to proinflammatory biomarkers such as prostanoids and leukotrienes which are implicated in every psychiatric disease known to humankind.