Food and Behaviour Research

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16 April 2015 - IFBB - Inaugural Henry Kitchener Lecture Summary on "The Global Crisis in Nutrition and Mental Ill-health" now available

In the inaugural IFBB lecture, Professor Crawford traced the origins of the human brain’s nutritional requirements, dispelling various flat earth myths along the way.

The current mental health crisis started in earnest in the latter half of the last century, leading to mental ill health costs in the UK alone now estimated by the NHS at over £100 billion.  Worldwide the number is incalculable. The primary culprit is identified as a dramatic reduction in the diet of the essential fatty acids needed for brain development and maintenance owing to a number of factors. Professor Crawford demonstrated how intensive animal and plant production became land-based, while at the same time marine-based fatty acids from fish and other related nutrients plunged as a dietary source.  Over 500 million years ago the first constituents of our brains evolved in the sea through these marine fats and other elements - and yet it is only since the Second World War that the radical changes in food production have deprived the human brain of many of these essential nutrients.

This may appear a simplification of a long and complex evolutionary journey, but there is a remarkable constant throughout: ready access to sources of the nutrients for the brain, especially the right essential fatty acids. Deprived of this historical, evolutionary constant, we now know that the brain operates sub-optimally and mental health suffers.

There are real solutions to the crisis, but these solutions will require a political and social will to achieve.