How Diet Influences Anxiety

Welcome to the Brain Food blog for Medscape Psychiatry. I am Dr Drew Ramsey, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City.

Last month, we reviewed the literature on how diet and nutrition can be used to augment our current treatments for depression. Today, I want to discuss how nutritional psychiatry—the use of nutrition and food—influences anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder. Of note, we do not have the same robust set of data that we have with depression. There are no randomized controlled trials that look at the effects of foods, nutrition, or specific nutritional supplements on anxiety disorders in general or specific anxiety disorders.

In this video blog, I will go over the growing and quite interesting data that do exist. Then I will talk about how we use food to help patients with anxiety disorders in our clinic in New York City.

 

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The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains

Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread behavioral and cognitive problems. But the scope of the chemical dangers in our environment is likely even greater. Why children and the poor are most susceptible to neurotoxic exposure that may be costing the U.S. billions of dollars and immeasurable peace of mind.

Forty-one million IQ points. That’s what Dr. David Bellinger determined Americans have collectively forfeited as a result of exposure to lead, mercury, and organophosphate pesticides. In a 2012 paper published by the National Institutes of Health, Bellinger, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, compared intelligence quotients among children whose mothers had been exposed to these neurotoxins while pregnant to those who had not. Bellinger calculates a total loss of 16.9 million IQ points due to exposure to organophosphates, the most common pesticides used in agriculture.

Last month, more research brought concerns about chemical exposure and brain health to a heightened pitch. Philippe Grandjean, Bellinger’s Harvard colleague, and Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, announced to some controversy in the pages of a prestigious medical journal that a “silent pandemic” of toxins has been damaging the brains of unborn children. The experts named 12 chemicals—substances found in both the environment and everyday items like furniture and clothing—that they believed to be causing not just lower IQs but ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. Pesticides were among the toxins they identified.

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Maybe It’s Not the Gluten

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Recent consumer surveys indicate that a gluten-free diet has become one of the most popular health food trends in the United States, such that 1 in 5 individuals have eliminated or reduced gluten in their daily diet, a number that far exceeds the small subgroup that carries a diagnosis of celiac disease or IgE-mediated wheat allergy.1 In this issue, Kim et al2 report the results of their analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), reporting that the prevalence of celiac disease has remained relatively stable from 2009 through 2014, although the prevalence of individuals reporting adherence to a gluten-free diet has more than tripled (0.52% in 2009-2010 to 1.69% in 2013-2014). Leer Más