For about ten years we’ve had very strong
correlational data showing that, for example, when you eat poorly your risk of depression
and illnesses like depression just go up 70/80 percent. And when you eat a more traditional diet like
a Mediterranean diet or Japanese diet your risk of an illness like depression can go
down by as much as 50 percent. And so that’s now led to the first clinical
trial that is just being reported showing that a Mediterranean diet augmented with some
red meat actually can treat clinical depression, major depression disorder. And it’s a very exciting moment for nutritional
psychiatry. It’s a time when we have more science that
tells us food should really be part of the conversation when it comes to our mental health. We are facing an incredible mental health
academic. I’ve been in New York as a psychiatrist now
for 16 years and the amount of distress and the amount of mortality that we’re seeing
is like levels we’ve never seen before and we need as many tools in our toolbox and food
is very much there, both from just common sense. We all know that to feel right we need to
eat right, but then also backed up by now an incredible amount of science showing that
a core set of nutrients actually have very clear data that can help in the prevention
and the treatment of illnesses, again, like depression and dementia. So we want to encourage people to eat those
foods that have most of these nutrients and then help them do that is really part of a
mental health care plan. We think about a lot of illnesses when we
eat, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and it’s always struck me that really the illness you
should be worried about or the organ you should be worried about when you’re eating is your
brain because that is by far your biggest asset. It consumes more of your energy in your food
than any other organ you have. And so focusing on the nutrients your brain
needs guide you to a slightly different set of foods that if you focus on just things
like calories or saturated fat or preventing something like cancer. And so it’s an exciting moment as the data
begins to catch up with common sense. The diets that seem to do the best in terms
of brain health are traditional diets. So, for example, the most science is about
the Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet. You’re going to see lots and lots of nuts
and seeds, whole grains, you’re going to see seafood, you going to see meat and dairy treated
differently. I mean it’s interesting that all Mediterranean
diets, Greek yogurt, for example, they have some dairy and fermented dairy products and
meat, but they’re used more as flavorings. You don’t see what we see in a western diet
of a giant steak and a baked potato. You see a lot more spices in the Mediterranean
diet and fresh herbs, these are very, very powerful medicine that have always been used
to treat illness. And so one of my favorite interventions is
helping people do like even a little herb pot on their fire is scape or in their front
yard because you can just walk out in the morning, grab some chives, grab some basil,
chop it up, have it with yours scrambled eggs. You’ve just increased the nutrient density
of that meal and you’ve made it a little bit more like the Mediterranean diet. What you’re going to see is in the Mediterranean
diets mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. You’re going to see, again, a lot of crunchy
vegetables, a lot of rainbows on those plates and lots and lots of seafood. I mean that’s really one of the main differences
if you look at a Spanish diet, all those tapas with little anchovies and a little bit of
squid and a little bit of octopus where we’re getting these very, very nutrient dense seafoods
that, again, we know how these molecules that are so important for brain health.