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The fact that nutrition influences our wellbeing is well known and a common sense. Our traditional diets were generally health supportive until the advent of processed foods. Change of diet in sickness and natural remedies were a standard part of treatment in traditional healing arts around the world.
Many changes happened in the 20th century. The arrival of chemical-based agriculture and processed foods coincided with the confusion about the "right diet". The science came up with the cholesterol hypothesis, for example, and the low fat diets were heavily promoted while the chronic diseases spread at an alarming rate. It certainly was not the triumph of the science. Nevertheless, in their quest for the ideal diet, people demand scientific justification.
Most of the nutritional studies in the past focused on a single nutrient therapy. The effects of single vitamins and minerals are well known today. A good summary would be the Micronutrient Information Centre published by the Linus Pauling Institute.
There is a division in the field of psychiatry - on one hand are the psychiatrists who were taught that diet and nutrients can't possibly treat the conditions of psyche, on the other hand are researches who explored biochemical therapy for decades and treated successfully tens of thousands of patients.
Examples are Dr. Abraham Hoffer, who first started treating his schizophrenic patients with nutrients in 1951, Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, who accumulated biochemical profiles from 45 000 people with mental disorders, developed first systematic nutritional treatments and trained several doctors in this mode of therapy, and Dr. William Walsh who studied with Pfeiffer. His book Nutrient Power is an eye opener.
The minerals and vitamins are acting as cofactors and enzyme regulators, which makes them useful as an additional treatment in many metabolic conditions, even those which have an epigenetic component.
The research into Amino Acids came relatively recently. A good information about them can be found in books of Trudy Scott (Anti-anxiety Food Solution) or Julia Ross (The Mood Cure), both of them with abundant scientific references and a wealth of practical instructions.
Nothing happens in isolation. Single nutrients are important, but our diet as a whole deserves more attention. One study on 1000 women shows that "traditional" diet based on vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and whole grains is associated with better mental health than a "western" diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products and beer. Another Australian study with over 2000 school children shows that children with healthier diet have better scores of emotional and mental health.
Interestingly, the Australian Dietary Guidelines are quite conservative and are moving only very slowly and with extreme hesitation in the direction of the current scientific recommendations.
There is a promising research in nutritional treatment of depression, autism, anxiety, ADHD, Alzheimer's and various psychiatric symptoms.
The best argument for nutritional therapy is that it works. There are many naturopaths, nutritionists, functional medicine practitioners, doctors and psychiatrists all around the world who treat mental conditions successfully with nutrition in spite of seemingly inconclusive scientific evidence.
The problem of science is its reductionism. Chronic diseases need a multi-pronged approach in which all treatments synergistically support each other. Science simply has to catch up to this holistic view.
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