– I just want to really try and understand the scale of the problem. So, we know that mental health
problems in general are on the rise. There’s many reasons for
that and many things in the modern environments have
improved, things like sanitation, hygiene, these
things have all got better, but it’s pretty hard to
make a case that our diets have got better. So, how much of a problem is
the modern food environment do you think, in terms of
these increasing rates of mental illness? – Well, you know,
the scope of the problem is actually mind boggling. So, we now know from the very
large studies that have been done, the Global Burden of
Disease studies, that poor diet, unhealthy diet, largely is
a result of the changes to the food system that are
prompted by big food industry making a lot of profits from
these ultra-processed food products. But poor diet is now the leading
cause of early death in men and number two in women across the globe. And obesity now kills more
people than undernutrition. The World Health Organisation have said,
by 2030 it’s going to cost the global community upwards of thirty trillion dollars and made the point that
there’s no economy in the world that can actually cope with
the cost, the poor health outcomes of unhealthy diet. And yet there’s been very little
action to kind of change the food environment at the
policy and legislative level. At the same time we know
that mental disorders, mental and substance use
disorders account for the leading global burden of disabilities,
so even though they may not directly always lead to early death, although they do have an impact on that, they cause a massive
amount of disability across the globe and unipolar
depression in particular is in the top five causes of disability across the globe continually. So, the fact that the two
things are linked is incredibly important for prevention
and for treatment, the fact that poor diet
is such a major issue globally for health really highlights the craziness of medical practitioners
getting so little training on nutrition during
their residencies, etc. So it’s a major issue, how much poor diet feeds into mental health problems
is yet to be established and that’s a really important
question but I suspect it varies enormously from
individual to individual. And it should be always said
that, you know, something like depression is very
multi-factorial disorder, there are so many things
that drive into it. But, if you think about the
risk factors for mental illness they’re very often things
that you can’t really change, they’re things like family
history, and early life trauma, and life events, and
poverty, and disadvantage, and interpersonal violence. These are things that are
often very challenging for societies to address. So, we need to be looking
for things that we can modify particularly if we want
to think about prevention because half of all mental
disorders start before the age of fourteen, so we
want to be able to prevent as many cases as we can. So, if we know that diet and
physical activity are both modifiable risk factors for
depression in particular, which we absolutely know
from very extensive data from around the world, then
this is where we should be targeting our interventions
as the low hanging fruit.