In addition to leafy green vegetables, researchers highlighted the importance of organ meats, game meats, nuts (pecans, walnuts, and peanuts), bivalves (mussels, clams, oysters), mollusks (octopus, squid, snail), and fish (salmon and sardines). Although it is recommended that patients eat 8 to 12 ounces of fish a week, it is important to choose fish that are lower in mercury. Individuals should therefore limit consumption of shark and swordfish.
Dr Reynolds also stressed that he wants to help patients make better choices when it comes to meat. Those choices, he said, should include grass-fed and pastured animals.
Although the research focuses more in the areas of depression and dementia, new trials are looking at attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and addictions, said Dr Reynolds.
Although most of the emerging data are from case reports and epidemiologic studies, the first randomized controlled study, known as the SMILES Trial, is testing the impact of a diet rich in many of these nutrients on major depression.
The study includes 176 patients with major depressive episodes at two centers in Victoria, Australia. Participants were randomly assigned to either a dietary intervention group, which focuses on advocating a healthy diet, or a social support group.
Although results of this trial likely will not be published until later this year, Dr Ramsey's group has had a chance to discuss the results with its investigators, and the results are "positive" and "better than expected."
"What's exciting about that is that it helps give the psychiatric community and our patients another set of tools in terms of treating and preventing mental illness," said Dr Ramsey.