Bad eating feeds mental illness, expert says

Poor nutrition is contributing to the increasing numbers of people suffering mental illness, a large psychiatry conference has been told.

Professor of clinical psychology at the University of Canterbury Julia Rucklidge says a well-nourished body and brain is better able to withstand ongoing stress and recover from illness.

She says it is time for Australian and New Zealand psychiatrists and psychologists to ''get serious'' about the critical role nutrition plays in mental health.

''Not a single study has shown that a Western diet that is heavily processed, high in refined grains, sugary drinks and takeaways and low in fresh produce is good for us,'' Prof Rucklidge said.

''The Western diet is associated with poor mental health and eating a diet more akin to the Mediterranean diet improves mental health.''

For more than a decade Prof Rucklidge has been leading research investigating the role of nutrition in mental health.

Prof Rucklidge told the New Zealand Conference of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in Tauranga yesterday nutrition mattered and optimising nutrition was a safe and viable way to avoid, treat or lessen mental illness.

The conference was told research showed people with a severe mental illness died up to 25 years earlier than those without a serious mental illness, often due to preventable physical health conditions.

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