In many ways our brains mimic computers (or more accurately, computers mimic our brains). They are both vastly powerful tools that we use to solve problems and guide our experiences. When our computers are low on battery, we charge them, and when our computers break, we work night and day to fix them. Sadly, most of us (myself included), do not treat our brains as well as we treat our computers! Like computers, our brains need to be properly maintained if we want them to function properly over time. One of the most important things we can do to maintain our brains is to fuel them with a healthy diet. Today let’s break down a rapidly growing field: nutritional psychiatry!
Let’s face it, we all feel differently when we eat differently. As you may remember from our podcast, psychiatric conditions come about due to a combination of genetic predispositions and environmental insults. Modern scientific research on diet suggests that a poor diet can act as an environmental stressor on your body (Marx et al., 2017)! There are likely several mechanisms by which a poor diet negatively impacts the brain, however, the most well-researched mechanism revolves around inflammation. Essentially, overly processed foods, excess sugar, and saturated fats can cause chronic inflammation in the body. This inflammation can limit your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and create properly working proteins. In-turn, this can lead to inadequate neurotransmission, altering the brain’s ability to function (Selhub, 2015; Sathyanarayana et al., 2008; O’Neil et al., 2014).
Maintaining a healthy diet is both incredibly important and incredibly difficult to accomplish. This is especially true in our low income communities where access to healthy, inexpensive food options are hard to come by. As a society it is important that we understand these issues and fight to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle!