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The Brain & Mental Health

The escalation of mental ill-health represents one of the most concerning challenges in the 21st century burden of disease. During the Westminster Health Forum Keynote Seminar on July 17th 2008, Dr Jo Nurse from the UK Department of Health reported that the cost of mental health problems to the UK is estimated at £77 billion. The cost of mental ill health in the U.K. now outweighs that of heart disease or cancer, the two most prevalent common causes of death.

Higher seafood consumption has been associated with lower rates of depression, post-natal depression or bipolar disorders. There have been indications that essential fatty acid supplementation may benefit several psychiatric, neurological and neurodevelopmental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia, dyspraxia, dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorders and ADHD.

Nutrition plays a key role in both physical and mental health and is arguably a cost effective factor in terms of prevention. It is well established that long chain-polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) are critical for prenatal, infant growth and healthy neurodevelopment. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids has proven a potentially inexpensive and effective treatment both alone or in conjunction with pharmacological medication for some patients. Furthermore, abnormalities in LC-PUFA have been documented in the blood samples of children, adolescents and adults with a range of neurodevelopmental disorders and mental health issues including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, dyslexia, major depressive disorder, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and dementia. Lower levels of omega-3 and higher levels of omega-6 have also been associated with suicidal behaviour and anti-social/aggressive disorders, the latter in both criminal populations and wider society.

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