Which Diet Is Healthiest for the Brain?

How Mediterranean, plant-based, Paleo & junk food diets affect brain chemistry.

Posted Apr 24, 2018

Our Descent Into Madness: Modern Diets and the Global Mental Health Crisis

We have a global mental health crisis on our hands.

Colleges and universities across the U.S. are seeing demand for medication and crisis services rise every year, overwhelming student health care services. Suicide is the #2 cause of death among young adults and an estimated 322 million people have been diagnosed with depression, which is now the #1 cause of disability in the world. What is going on? What does this mean for our future? Do we know anything about what is causing this global pandemic? Is there anything we can do about it, or is this just the way it's supposed to be?

As a college psychiatrist who specializes in nutrition, I am convinced that the decline in the quality of the human diet over the past 75 years has a great deal to do with the deterioration in mental health both of college students and around the world. In this half-hour talk, I address the following questions:

  • How do Mediterranean, plant-based, and Paleo diets affect brain chemistry?
  • How do modern processed foods like sugar, flour, and vegetable oil damage the brain?
  • Why are some women and children at higher risk for brain nutrient deficiencies?
  • Which superfoods are best at delivering nutrients to the brain?

In a nutshell: What does the brain want to eat?

The field of nutritional psychiatry is still in its infancy. We have precious few controlled dietary intervention studies, and all too many junk studies, misleading headlines, and superfood marketing ploys to (mis)guide us in our brain food choices.

While it would be wonderful to have more studies, we already have a wealth of high-quality scientific information that we can turn to—information that is largely overlooked, even by most mental health nutrition experts. I argue in this fully referenced presentation that there are specific ingredients within popular modern diets that place the brain at high risk for failure, and that there are simple changes you can make that your brain will truly appreciate.

This new presentation was given in March 2018 at Low Carb Breckenridge, a wonderful nutrition and health conference created by Dr. Rod Tayler of Melbourne, Australia and Dr. Jeffry Gerber of Denver, Colorado. I do touch upon low-carbohydrate approaches to mental health, but the majority of the material I share in this talk has nothing to do with low-carb diets and is relevant to everyone.

I hope you, your loved ones, your patients, and your colleagues will find this short video useful in understanding the powerful role food can play in restoring our good mental health.