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Micronutrients could reduce psychological disorders

Adding micronutrients to people's diet could reduce psychological disorders

November 20, 2012

A University of Canterbury (UC) lecturer believes research into changing diets might help treat mental illness and psychological disorders.

Associate Professor Julia Rucklidge said 47 percent of New Zealanders will experience a mental illness and / or an addiction at some time in their lives, according to an earlier New Zealand mental health survey.

One in five people Kiwis are affected by mental illness within one year and NZ rates of mental illness are some of highest in the developed world, she said.

``Younger people have a higher prevalence of mental disorders. Prevalence of disorder is higher for those economically disadvantaged and for Maori and Pacific people. In New Zealand, people with mental illness have the highest rates of unemployment, at 44 percent. Only 27 percent of these people were likely to be in full-time work. Of those with mental illness, 48 percent of people were claiming some sort of benefit.

``There is some data suggesting that rates of disorders could be increasing, with lifestyle factors playing an important role in these changes.

``Clinical psychologists are well poised to tackle some of these difficult social issues, with a unique training in the science and practice of psychology. Graduates of clinical psychology training programmes depart with two degrees: one a research degree and one in the application of research to clinical practice.

``This week marks 50 years since the first clinical psychology training programme began in New Zealand at the University of Canterbury. UC has graduated hundreds of students assisting New Zealanders with mental health issues, from depression, to ADHD, to treating sex offenders.’’

To celebrate the UC anniversary, a two day seminar will take place on campus on November 23 and 24, discussing some challenges clinical psychologists face today.

The clinical psychology programme at UC is the oldest training programme in New Zealand and providing ground breaking research and investigating new treatments for mental illness.

Associate Professor Julia Rucklidge said she had been has been investigating dietary influences on mental disorders. International research is establishing that the western diet increases risk for developing depression, anxiety and ADHD.

Children, malnourished in first six months of life, are at greater risk for developing depression and ADHD 30 years later.

During times of famine, women malnourished in pregnancy had a higher risk of producing offspring who developed schizoid personality disorder and depression.

She has been conducting trials looking at whether providing additional nutrients can affect the expression of common mental disorders, such as ADHD, anxiety and depression, with trials to date showing positive effects.

``Clinical psychologists are faced with high rates of psychiatric disorders for which treatment response varies across treatment and across disorder. Clinical psychology training provides students with the skills to research the impact of various treatments for psychological disorders in order to best inform current practice.’’

Clinical psychology senior lecturer Dr Janet Carter said there was a high rate of depression and anti-depressive medication use in NZ, and especially Christchurch.

``Increasing our knowledge about psychotherapies for depression and what predicts who will respond to which psychotherapy will mean that we are better able to target psychotherapies to individuals, and has the potential to decrease antidepressant use,’’ Dr Carter said.


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