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October 2020, Volume 70, Issue 10

Student's Corner

Role of nutritional psychiatry as an unorthodox approach to tackle the global burden of mental diseases

Areesh Fatmee  ( 4th Year, Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Pir Mehr Ali Shah- University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi, Pakistan )




Madam, mental health problems are considered a taboo in developing countries like Pakistan. According to the World Health Organization, depression will supersede hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases as the most dominant global disease by 2030.1 Despite the alarming statistics, our health system is not completely equipped with policies to meet the needs of the hour. The bleak situation of mental health problems in Pakistan reflects presence of only one psychiatrist for every 1000 patients thus putting mental health as the most neglected problem in the country.2 Evidences suggest aggravation of certain neuropsychiatric conditions as a result of poor dietary choices. However, the underlying causal relationships are complex.

Researchers have introduced Nutritional psychiatry as an alternative approach. This field supports the theory that the commonly consumed food not only impacts our physiology and physical appearance but is also critically important for mood regulation and wellbeing.

Psychiatrists treat mental disorders with an array of prescription drugs which present unwanted side effects on the metabolism of the body. It was found that, obesity - the current global health hazard has two co-morbidities i.e.; Alzheimer's disease and depression. This formulates the theory which states that vascular impairments may have a role in the development of psychiatric pathologies. Thus, suggesting that Alzheimer's disease, depression and other dementias are now potentially preventable with a healthy diet.3

There are several changes required in dietary patterns to make the mental diseases preventable.

Firstly, introduction of broad-spectrum micronutrients. Secondly, well-controlled clinical trials suggest a deficiency of neurotransmitters as the pathophysiological basis of depression. Randomized controlled trials suggest that 1.5 to 2g of EPA/day (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and 0.8mg of folate/day helps in mood elevation of depressed patients.5

Thus, keeping all the evidences in regards, the practitioners should be advised to educate patients regarding medical nutritional therapy and government level polices should be formulated to address the mental health problems from the avenue of nutritional psychiatry.


Disclaimer: None to declare.

Conflict of Interest: None to declare.

Funding Disclosure: None to declare.




1.      Global burden of mental disorders and the need for a comprehensive, coordinated response from health and social sectors at the country level. World Health Organization: EB130/9, 2011.

2.      Country Policy and Information Note Pakistan: Medical and Healthcare Issues. United Kingdom: Home Office, 2018.

3.      Owen L, Corfe B. The role of diet and nutrition on mental health and wellbeing. Proc Nutr Soc. 2017; 74:1-2.

4.      Lim SY, Kim EJ, Kim A, Lee HJ, Choi HJ, Yang SJ. Nutritional factors affecting mental health. Clin Nutr Res. 2016; 5:143-52.

5.      Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. Nutr J. 2008; 7:2.


Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association has agreed to receive and publish manuscripts in accordance with the principles of the following committees: