How To Conquer Depression Through Diet
The way to a healthy mind is through the stomach, according to psychiatrist Drew Ramsey. The right foods can decrease your risk of depression by 50%, and treat clinical mental disorders.
Dr. Drew Ramsey is a psychiatrist, author, and farmer. He is one of psychiatry’s leading proponents of using dietary change to help balance moods, sharpen brain function and improve mental health. He is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and in active clinical practice in New York City where his work focuses on the clinical treatment of depression and anxiety. Using the latest brain science and nutritional research, modern treatments, and an array of delicious food he aims to help people live to their happiest, healthiest lives.
He is the co-creator of The Brain Food Scale, co-founder of National Kale Day 501(c)3, and a member of the medical review team at Dr. Oz’s webportal ShareCare. He frequently speaks and conducts workshops nationally, including two recent TEDx talks BrainFork and Brain Farmacy on food and brain health. His work and writing have been featured by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Atlantic.com, Prevention, Lancet Psychiatry, and NPR, which named him a “kale evangelist.” His recent bestseller 50 Shades of Kale has made this superfood accessible to thousands. His first book, The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood and Lean, Energized Body explored the impact of modern diets on brain health.
Dr. Ramsey teaches and supervises Psychiatric Evaluation and in the Columbia University Adult Psychiatry Residency Program. He serves as a thesis mentor for graduate students at the Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition where is also lectures on nutrition and the brain. From 2005 to 2008, he directed the Audubon Continuing Day Treatment Program, a bilingual service for the severely mentally ill located in the Washington Heights. He is a faculty member at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. Dr. Ramsey is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He completed his specialty training in adult psychiatry at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, received an M.D. from Indiana University School of Medicine and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Earlham College.
Drew Ramsey: For about ten years we've had very strong correlational data showing that, for example, when you eat poorly your risk of depression and illnesses like depression just go up 70/80 percent. And when you eat a more traditional diet like a Mediterranean diet or Japanese diet your risk of an illness like depression can go down by as much as 50 percent. And so that's now led to the first clinical trial that is just being reported showing that a Mediterranean diet augmented with some red meat actually can treat clinical depression, major depression disorder. And it's a very exciting moment for nutritional psychiatry. It's a time when we have more science that tells us food should really be part of the conversation when it comes to our mental health. We are facing an incredible mental health epidemic. I've been in New York as a psychiatrist now for 16 years and the amount of distress and the amount of mortality that we're seeing is like levels we've never seen before and we need as many tools in our toolbox and food is very much there, both from just common sense. We all know that to feel right we need to eat right, but then also backed up by now an incredible amount of science showing that a core set of nutrients actually have very clear data that can help in the prevention and the treatment of illnesses, again, like depression and dementia. So we want to encourage people to eat those foods that have most of these nutrients and then help them do that is really part of a mental health care plan.
We think about a lot of illnesses when we eat, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and it's always struck me that really the illness you should be worried about or the organ you should be worried about when you're eating is your brain because that is by far your biggest asset. It consumes more of your energy in your food than any other organ you have. And so focusing on the nutrients your brain needs guide you to a slightly different set of foods that if you focus on just things like calories or saturated fat or preventing something like cancer. And so it's an exciting moment as the data begins to catch up with common sense.
The diets that seem to do the best in terms of brain health are traditional diets. So, for example, the most science is about the Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet. You're going to see lots and lots of nuts and seeds, whole grains, you're going to see seafood, you going to see meat and dairy treated differently. I mean it's interesting that all Mediterranean diets, Greek yogurt, for example, they have some dairy and fermented dairy products and meat, but they're used more as flavorings. You don't see what we see in a western diet of a giant steak and a baked potato. You see a lot more spices in the Mediterranean diet and fresh herbs, these are very, very powerful medicine that have always been used to treat illness.
And so one of my favorite interventions is helping people do like even a little herb pot on their fire is scape or in their front yard because you can just walk out in the morning, grab some chives, grab some basil, chop it up, have it with yours scrambled eggs. You've just increased the nutrient density of that meal and you've made it a little bit more like the Mediterranean diet. What you're going to see is in the Mediterranean diets mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. You're going to see, again, a lot of crunchy vegetables, a lot of rainbows on those plates and lots and lots of seafood. I mean that's really one of the main differences if you look at a Spanish diet, all those tapas with little anchovies and a little bit of squid and a little bit of octopus where we're getting these very, very nutrient dense seafoods that, again, we know how these molecules that are so important for brain health.
Psychiatrist Dr. Drew Ramsey, the guy who brought the world incredible catchphrases like "You can’t fail with kale" and "Some people are big pharma – I'm little farmer", is back with some incredibly interesting data on the relationship between mental health and diet.
A new branch of nutritional psychiatry is emerging, and while some are talking about the compounds in food as a way to treat and prevent mental illness, Dr Ramsey wants to go straight to the source and relate real food to brain health. "Supplements frighten me a little bit," he says, in an interview with Splendid Table. "They're totally unregulated. You want a scare, go to the FDA website that looks at recalls of natural supplements. It's terrifying." Key mind and mood boosting nutrients that can be gained from food include long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and vitamins B1, B9, B12, D, and E.
Research shows that when you eat a more traditional diet like a Mediterranean diet or Japanese diet your risk of an illness like depression can decrease by as much as 50 per cent. The first clinical trial on this has just reported that a Mediterranean diet (plant-based, with seafood, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fermented dairy, and oils, augmented with some red meat), can treat major clinical depression. Ramsey points out that people think about their hearts, and diabetes, and cholesterol when they plan their food, but there’s not enough focus on brain health and the organ that is your biggest asset.
Ramsey recommends starting by growing a few small herb pots in your kitchen, on a windowsill, in the fire escape (don’t tell the fire marshall), or in the garden and incorporating them regularly in your meals to instantly increase nutritional density. "You see a lot more spices in the Mediterranean diet and fresh herbs; these are a very, very powerful medicine that have always been used to treat illness," he says. Eat crunch vegetables, create meals with lots of different colored vegetables, and eat lots and lots of seafood – sustainable is best for you and the environment, so do some investigating into a good fishmonger in your area.
The right foods really can boost brain function and minimize mental illness, so start seeing your fork as a valuable intervention tool.
Drew Ramsey's book is Eat Complete.
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- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
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Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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