American Dietary Guidelines: Linking nutrition and mental health

Publication date

February 2015


American Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

The Publication

This comprehensive report dedicates an entire section to the link between nutrition and mental health. Professor Tom Brenna, a member of our Science Advisory Council, was on the panel. Although the committee focused on dietary patterns as opposed to specific nutrient intake, it is an important step forward in showing the influence of overall nutrition on mental health.

The report states that sufficiently strong medical evidence has been obtained for EPA and DHA (both long chain omega-3 fatty acids that are primarily found in fish and fish oils) that supplements are now considered as complementary therapy for major depressive disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.

The report also states that limited evidence suggests that:

“a dietary pattern containing an array of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and seafood consumed during adulthood is associated with lower risk of age-related cognitive impairment, dementia, and/or Alzheimer’s disease….Limited evidence [also] suggests that dietary patterns emphasising seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes are associated with lower risk of depression in men and non-perinatal women.”

Our Response

This is a great move forward in increasing awareness of the link between food and its effect on mental health. With ever-emerging evidence in this field, further information  from dietary guidance committees about how what we eat affects our brains will help us to make informed food choices that may go some way to easing the burden of mental illness.