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Henrik Ennart

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Thank Goodness for Health Books

Thank goodness for health books! Not only are books just the best but they also fill an important function, providing a platform to highlight new exciting research.

One of the latest examples is the book Brain Changer – The Good Mental Health Diet (available here), written by Australian researcher Felice Jacka. It is simply a must read for anyone who wants to keep up with the debate on food and mental health.

I interviewed Felice Jacka in mine and Niklas Ekstedts first Happy Food book. This was due to the fact that since 2015, healthcare providers in Australia and New Zealand focus on diet, exercise, smoking and sleep before even considering other therapies when dealing with a patient suffering from mental health issues such as depression.

Felice Jacka is one of the driving forces behind the change and an often interviewed authority on the matter. She has many important articles published in the largest magazines and journals on the subject. She is head of the Food & Mood Center at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia, the only one in the world that is completely focused on the link between food and mental health.

Nowadays she is also chairman of a global network for the rapidly emerging research area of ​​nutrition psychiatry, ISNPR. There, researchers meet from completely different angles, from those who study the intestinal flora to those who engage in traditional diet studies.
Perhaps it’s an Australian mentality that contributes to Felice Jacka’s unity of a strictly scientific and critical approach to evaluating results, with a desire to draw conclusions about what we need to do here and now based on the knowledge that actually exists. Faced with epidemics of obesity, diabetes and mental illness, it is no longer possible to close our eyes to how we are affected by fiberless junk food for both body and soul.

At a time when many science bloggers reject most of that which is lacking large and expensive randomized trial studies, Felice Jacka methodically weaves together ironklad knowledge that covers the issue from so many points that it becomes clear, in some cases 100% clear, that it is irresponsible to continuing sitting with your arms crossed.

Thought experiment: Would tax and warning texts on tobacco have been introduced today with the scientific evidence that existed in the 1970’s, without randomized control studies? Probably not. Still, it was obviously a very good decision.

There are, of course, many causes of mental illness, but after reading Brain Changer, it is difficult to wave off the importance of food and other factors such as exercise. If simple lifestyle changes can help at least some then there is no need to wait. The food that is recommended, i.e., Mediterranean diet, is what we all should already be eating anyways for other health reasons. The only known side effect is that we can live longer.

The book also contains details that can be controversial. For example, how mental health/illness is affected by the recent vegetarian/vegan wave? Felice Jacka herself has been a vegetarian since her childhood, but now, based on her own and others’ research, she thinks her teenage daughters should eat meat at least once a week. But, it should be from grass-fed animals with a lot of omega-3 fat. Rarely is anything only black or white.

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.

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