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National Nutrition Week 2019: What’s the Link Between Depression, Suicide and Nutrition?

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National Nutrition Week 2019 will be observed in India from September 1 to September 8. The week-long observance aims to highlight the need to plug nutritional deficiencies in the country, which lead to developmental disorders. Although the physical manifestation of nutritional deficiency is well-known, not much is about the effects of malnutrition on mental health. The relationship between nutrition and depression is real, and scores of experts can attest to it. Depression is often the precursor to suicide and self-harm. Instead of only looking at depression solely from a psychiatry angle, mental health experts should also explore the role of diet and nutritional deficiency. Are You Truly Healthy? 7 Signs of Nutritional Deficiency.

Research has been able to positively correlate diet to depression. You are what you eat, after all. A lack of certain nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, minerals and other micronutrients has been seen in diets of people suffering from mental disorders.

Eating a “traditional” diet, comprising fresh produce, healthy fats, seafood and whole grains, reduce the risk of depression by 25 percent to 35 percent. The same cannot be said about a western diet that includes processed food, high sodium, white flour, sugar and preservatives. Here are some nutritional deficiencies that can lead to depression and suicide. Are You Among 70% Indians With Vitamin D Deficiency? 5 Signs You Are!

Carbohydrate Deficiency

There’s a reason why a binge round of pizza or pasta makes you feel good inside. Diets like keto which stress on a low carb diet usually lead to depression. Production of brain chemicals like serotonin – which promotes emotional well-being – is triggered by carb-rich foods.

Protein Deficiency

Proteins are the building blocks of life. A total of 12 amino acids are produced in the body, but eight is supplied through diet. Without enough protein in the diet, the body doesn’t get enough amino acids, especially tyrosine and tryptophan to produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Lack of these chemicals may cause mood swings and aggression in people.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid Deficiency

If your diet is lacking in healthy fats, it could lead to a deficiency in omega 3 fatty acids. The human brain, which is the organ with the highest level of fats, is made up of grey and white matter. The grey matter of the brain contains 50 percent fatty acids. So it needs a diet rich in omega 3 to function well.

Vitamin B Complex

Micronutrient deficiency, especially that of the vitamin B complex, has been linked to depression. Having dietary supplements for a year has been linked to improved mental health. A deficiency of vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) and folate have also been seen to wreak havoc on mental health.

Mineral Deficiency

Without enough calcium, chromium, iron, iodine, lithium, zinc and selenium in the diet, the mental health gets compromised. Having these nutrients through either food or nutritional supplements can impact a big change in mood and depression.

Probiotic Deficiency

Since serotonin is made in the gut, it’s important to nurture the good bacteria in the stomach and nourish the body with probiotics. According to Harvard Health, studies have been able to prove the link between a probiotic diet and improved mental health. The gastrointestinal tract is lined with nerve cells, which tends to prove that the digestive system may have a role in regulating your mood. The good bacteria in the gut also activate neural pathways, forming a link between the stomach and the brain.

Serotonin, the feel-good chemical, that regulates sleep and appetite, and inhibits pain, is produced mainly in the gut. Low levels of the neurotransmitter have been linked to suicides. When serotonin decreases, it triggers risky, impulsive behaviours that usually culminate in suicide.