How Nutritional Interventions Can Help Improve Mental Illnesses


Abundant research also supports the relationship between trace elements and other specific nutrients and psychiatric disorders. As reported in a review in the American Journal of Public Health in October 2014, for instance, “the dietary intake of folate, zinc, and magnesium is inversely associated with depressive disorders, whereas dietary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are inversely related to anxiety disorders.”6

Inflammation and gut health are two additional factors that appear to have an important role in the relationship between diet and psychological functioning, and research in these areas is ongoing.7,8,9,10 According to the field of psychoneuroimmunology, “diet, gut health, and mental health are all interrelated and have huge effects on mood,” Dr Arden said.

In addition to diet-based interventions, there is sufficient data to support the use of supplements (also called “nutraceuticals”) as stand-alone or add-on treatments,11 according the the ISNPR statement. “While more research is required, there are some nutraceuticals that have substantiative evidence for use in select psychiatric disorders,” which can be prescribed by clinicians with the required qualifications, added Dr Sarris.

“Advice on pursuing a balanced whole-food diet can also always be given, and in cases involving more intensive advice or challenging prescription, appropriate referral is advised.”

Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC, is a psychotherapist and freelance writer based in Atlanta


1.      Sarris J, Logan AC, Akbaraly TN, et al. International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research consensus position statement: nutritional medicine in modern psychiatry. World Psychiatry. 2015; 14(3): 370–371. 

2.      Heilskov Rytter MJ, Andersen LB, Houmann T, et al. Diet in the treatment of ADHD in children – a systematic review of the literature. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry. 2015 Jan;69(1):1-18. 

3.      Sanhueza C, Ryan L, Foxcroft DR. Diet and the risk of unipolar depression in adults: systematic review of cohort studies. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013; 26(1):56-70.

4.      Lai JS, Hiles S, Bisquera A, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014; 99(1):181-97. 

5.      Akbaraly TN, Brunner EJ, Ferrie JE, et al. Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2009; 195(5):408-13. 

6.      O’Neil A, Quirk SE, Housden S, et al. Relationship Between Diet and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Public Health. 2014; 104(10): e31–e42.

7.      Jacka FN, Rothon C, Taylor S et al. Diet quality and mental health problems in adolescents from East London: a prospective study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 2013; 48(8):1297-306. 

8.      Berk M, Williams LJ, Jacka FN, et al. So depression is an inflammatory disease, but where does the inflammation come from? BMC Medicine. 2013; 11:200.

9.      Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Stress, Food, and Inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and Nutrition at the Cutting Edge. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2010; 72(4): 365–369.

10.  Selhub EM, Logan AC, Bested AC.  Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. Journal of Physiological Anthropology. 2014; 33(1): 2.

11.  Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. Nutrition Journal. 2008; 7:2.