diet: Chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks have been linked to depression
The rapid growth of industrialised food production in the 20th Century was initially seen as the answer to food poverty and malnutrition.
The development of food additives and preservatives facilitated long-term storage and transport of food, making it cheaper and more widely available.
What was not foreseen was the loss of essential nutrients naturally present in fresh, unprocessed foods. Vital nutrients for brain and nervous system functioning, such as Omega 3 fatty acids, the B vitamins and trace elements such as Magnesium and Zinc are systematically stripped away by modern industrial food production processes.
This has led to inevitable and predictable consequences for mental health in the general population. For instance, the decline in the age of onset of depression in recent decades has been linked to young people's sugar-laden, nutritionally impoverished diet of fast food, fizzy drinks, crisps and chocolate bars.
Dr Edmond O'Flaherty sees nutrient therapy as a complement to, rather than a replacement for, standard drug treatment. "What I see in cases of depression in Ireland is high copper and low zinc – I have seen hundreds of such cases", says Dr O'Flaherty.
"Drugs can have very unpleasant side effects for many people. Using nutrient therapy allows people to decrease their medication and in some instances come off medication altogether."
The nutritional approach is not a quick fix, as it can take a number of weeks. But at a time of increasing stress levels and unprecedented cuts in the mental healthcare budget, it may represent a safe, low-cost and effective intervention to augment drug-based approaches to mental health treatment.
Dr O'Flaherty can be
contacted on 01-2881425