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Nutrition Above the Neck: Why is This Topic Met With Hostility?

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Two researchers specializing in exploring the connection between nutrition and mental health recently published an article on Mad in America comparing nutrition-based therapy in cancer patients with nutrition-based therapy in mental health patients.

Drs. Bonnie Kaplan and Julia Rucklidge summarize some preliminary work in research on nutrient-derived medications in treating cancer patients that, rather than attack cancer cells, encourage cancer cells to develop into normal, mature cells. In two case studies, a significant number of participants have gone into remission, and the scientific community is interested in this potential treatment, which also promises few side effects because it’s derived from vitamin A.

Kaplan and Rucklidge then contrast this with their early research into nutrient-based treatment for psychiatric symptoms.

For example, when Kaplan presented her initial case study results at a Canadian conference in 2001, Canadian media ridiculed the findings, and mental health professionals across the country discouraged their patients from participating in this nutrient-based therapy.

Even when she published study after study in academic journals year after year duplicating the results, hostility persisted for several years. In fact, hostility was so entrenched in the mental health professional community, that she couldn’t find a single psychiatrist who would refer patients to her for the first randomized control study 10 years ago.

When Rucklidge conducted similar research and found similar results, she, too, experienced the same reaction.

Both researchers feel that enough time has passed that we’re at a point today when the public must recognize the significant role nutrition plays not only in physical health but also in mental health.

But isn’t it time for all of us to be open to the possibility that lifestyle factors, just as they are so relevant to physical health, are also relevant to mental health? As the head of NIMH Thomas Insel discussed in his TEDx talk, whereas globally there has been a reduction in mortality from stroke, heart disease and AIDS, we have had no impact on the rates of suicide. And it wasn’t new drugs that had the huge effect on reducing rates of some of these physical illnesses, it has been the focus on lifestyle factors, especially reduction of smoking.

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